The Brewers decided to non-tender Travis Shaw on Monday, and even coming off of a down year, his skill set could be a great fit with the Blue Jays in 2020.
They weren’t the only team cutting some veterans loose, and there are a handful of players that just joined the free agent market that should catch the Blue Jays’ eye. One of a handful of names that stands out is Travis Shaw, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers.
To be fair, Shaw had a terrible 2019 season, slashing just .157/.281/.270 across 86 games and 230 at-bats. It was an unexpected fall from grace, especially since he had an OPS of .825 with 32 home runs and 86 RBI in 2018, and marks of .862, 31 home runs, and 101 RBI in 2017. He struggled out of the gate last year before hitting the Injured List with a sore wrist, but ended up being sent back to Triple-A again a second time later in year because he never got things going at the plate.
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So knowing all of that, why would I suggest the Blue Jays should be interested in the 29-year-old’s services?
If you ask me, he might be a perfect fit for the Blue Jays for the time being, and it has a lot to do with the current construction of the roster. The Jays could really use a veteran of some kind to split time and serve as a safety net for Rowdy Tellez next season, as there are no guarantees he can handle full-time playing duties at the highest level. Shaw has plenty of experience at first base, and could be that veteran presence to help steady the cold corner. He would likely be the type that would have to earn playing time over Tellez, which is exactly what the Blue Jays should be looking for in order to push their young slugger.
That could be important, and a short-term solution has to be the way to go at first base for the Blue Jays. Why? Because at this stage they really don’t know if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to be able to stick at third base or not, so committing to a long-term option at first base is highly unlikely to happen. They also don’t know exactly what they have in Tellez, which is why having a veteran presence there should be on the off-season checklist.
If things are going well at first base with Tellez, Shaw has plenty of experience around the diamond as well that could come in handy for Charlie Montoyo. His primary position is third base, which would be helpful to back up Vlad Jr. at third when he needs a rest, but he’s also had plenty of experience at second base as well. He did make two starts in the outfield earlier in his career with the Red Sox as well, but that’s likely a stretch for his defensive abilities.
The Ohio native will likely be looking for a one-year deal in 2020 in hopes of re-establishing his value, and hopefully hitting free agency again a year from now in a much better position. That likely means he’ll be looking for a place to play nearly every day, and while the Blue Jays likely wouldn’t be able to hand him a full-time job, they can likely get him in the lineup fairly regularly.
It’s possible that someone like Shaw could be viewed as a redundant piece with the presence of Brandon Drury on the 25-man roster, but I would argue that he could be an upgrade to the spot on the team. He made just 4.625 million last season, and after having been non-tendered by the Brewers he will likely have to settle for even less than that. If he has a rebound campaign he could be an attractive asset on a cheap contract when the July trade season rolls around as well.
While I’m rarely a fan of the Blue Jays choosing the discount option to fill a roster need, Shaw is the type of player that I’d be happy to see brought in, especially on a one year deal. With his positional flexibility, history of success, and being in a spot where he needs to earn his playing time, I believe the fit for him with the Blue Jays in 2020 could be a good one.