The agreement was announced a while ago, but Travis Shaw’s contract with the Blue Jays is now official, signing a one-year deal.
After losing Justin Smoak to free agency, the Blue Jays were in need of a veteran who could handle first base to replace him. Fortunately, they found someone who can do that and then some.
Travis Shaw had a pretty rough 2019 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, and he was looking for a place to prove his value again. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, Toronto seemed like the place best spot for him, despite there being as many as 14 interested teams in his services. His agreement with the Blue Jays is for one year on a “pillow” contract of just four million that could include some incentives as well, and the 29-year-old will hope to bounce back in a big way.
There are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll do just that, despite the fact that he slashed just .157/.281/.270 with just seven home runs, five doubles, and 16 RBI over 230 at-bats. It was a far cry from the player that hit 63 home runs during the 2017-18 seasons, also averaging an OBP of .347 over that time.
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If he can return to that type of hitter then Shaw will have value regardless of where he plays on the diamond. That said, his defensive versatility adds another dimension of value, as he’s competent at first, second, and third base, primarily playing at the hot corner throughout his five MLB seasons. He’ll be able to team with Rowdy Tellez at first base, and provide back-up to both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third, and Cavan Biggio at second base as well.
As hard as it is to say goodbye to a fan favourite like Smoak, Shaw’s roster fit should actually work a lot better, especially because of that versatility. That’s predicated on him returning closer to his 2017-18 form, but there are plenty of reasons to think he can make some significant improvements over his struggles from last season. The Blue Jays rolled the dice at just four million to find out, and his contract also includes incentives of $175,000 for 350 plate appearances, and another $125,000 for every 50 at-bats thereafter (courtesy of Spotrac.com).
In a best case scenario, the Ohio native could be exactly what the Blue Jays need to help round out their young lineup. If that’s the case, he could be an extension candidate at the end of the year, or possibly a valuable trade chip in July if the Blue Jays aren’t realistically in the playoff race. In a worst case scenario, the Blue Jays rolled the dice at a very reasonable cost, and will have a veteran to help ease Rowdy Tellez into full-time MLB duties (if he can seize the DH role), and give them insurance around the infield.
All in all, the signing has the chance to provide some very good value, and I’m excited to see what he can do in a Blue Jays’ uniform. For what it’s worth, Shaw sounds like he’s excited too.