The Blue Jays have agreed with Travis Shaw on a one-year deal, announced on Sunday morning. Does that mean they’re done pursuing Edwin Encarnacion?
The free agent market continues to move at a much quicker pace than it has over the last few seasons, and that’s also applied to the Blue Jays, even if it feels like they’ve struggled to get things over the finish line with several targets.
On Sunday the Blue Jays signed their second big league free agent, agreeing to a one-year deal with Travis Shaw worth four million, that could climb up to 4.675 million with some incentives built into his contract. His signing came after the Blue Jays signed Tanner Roark to a two-year, 24 million dollar pact a few weeks ago.
Shaw’s addition makes a lot of sense for the Blue Jays, as his skill set should fit well in Toronto. He’s had solid MLB experience at third, second, and first base, and there’s a chance he could play all three positions next season. Rowdy Tellez seems poised to get full-time at-bats between first base and designated hitter, and Shaw’s presence helps shore up the position that could be handed to a relatively inexperienced player. His ability to back up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third will also be a welcome contribution, even with the presence of Brandon Drury as well.
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The reason that Shaw agreed to a one-year deal for such a small salary is because of the struggles he went through during the 2019 campaign. He battled some injury issues, but Shaw slashed a very uncharacteristic .157/.281/.270 across 230 at-bats, coming in with a bWAR mark of -0.9. That said, the 29 year old was a very solid contributor in 2017 and 2018 for the Brewers, collecting 63 home runs, 67 doubles, 187 RBI, and a bWAR mark of 8.0 over those two seasons. The Blue Jays are hoping they get that player with their roll of the dice, and there are plenty of reasons to have faith in a bounce-back campaign.
Despite Shaw being a good fit for the Blue Jays and there being a clear need for first base depth, his signing was met with mixed reviews by the fan base on social media on Sunday. That’s because the other big rumour circulating around was that there was mutual interest in a reunion between Edwin Encarnacion and the Blue Jays, who also happens to be a first base/designated hitter. The general feeling is that now that Shaw is under contract, there probably aren’t enough at-bats to go around to entice the former Blue Jay to come back.
That said, bringing Shaw into the fold doesn’t necessarily mean the Blue Jays are out on Encarnacion. There isn’t the same urgency to add depth that there was before, but there are still a few things for the Blue Jays to consider. One, Shaw’s skill set is very similar to Brandon Drury’s, which has me wondering if the Blue Jays will feel the need to carry both of them? If not, Shaw could fill more of Drury’s role as a utility-type, and perhaps there could be room for Encarnacion as well. The club did tender Drury a contract before the arbitration deadline, but who knows if they feel the same about bringing him back today.
The Blue Jays could also make Rowdy Tellez earn his at-bats at first base, rather than hand him the job as many of us are expecting them to do. Let’s face it, the organization wants to see if he’s capable of being a long-term solution at the cold corner, and the only way to truly find out is to give him a full-time opportunity. That said, he could still spend time in Triple-A if he’s not keeping up, which is why the Blue Jays wanted to add some insurance to the position to begin with.
While I don’t know that signing Shaw guarantees that the Blue Jays will pass on pursuing Edwin Encarnacion, his presence certainly makes it a tougher fit. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Blue Jays stayed in touch with EE, mostly to see if the bottom falls out of his market and they could maybe get him on a bargain, but there should be a fair offer for the 36-year-old somewhere. Unfortunately for those of us hoping for a reunion, Shaw’s defensive flexibility, and the savings on his contract (assuming Encarnacion gets more than four million) were likely enough to push Ross Atkins and company to the decision they made.