Toronto Blue Jays: Not every gamble is going to pay off

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Travis Shaw #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a three run home run in the fifth inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 18, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Travis Shaw #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a three run home run in the fifth inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 18, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays rolled the dice on Travis Shaw this past off-season, and unfortunately it’s turning out to be proof that not every gamble will pay off.

When Summer Camp began, I think the Blue Jay were fortunate that they had Travis Shaw on the roster, as his flexibility allowed them to swap positions between him and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. before the season began.

However, as the schedule has progressed it’s become pretty clear that he may have already provided his best value to the Blue Jays, and as their roster starts to get healthy, he could even find himself on the bubble.

He started off pretty well for the first few weeks of the season, but unfortunately the veteran has slowly regressed to the player who badly struggled through the 2019 campaign with Milwaukee. The front office decided to roll the dice on the 30-year-old this past winter, and for the four million (pro-rated of course) he’s making it was a worthwhile gamble. However, as the Blue Jays have improved their roster and have had important steps forward from others, it’s hard to see a whole lot of playing time for him down the stretch, especially once Bo Bichette is able to return.

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On the season Shaw is now slashing a disappointing .208/.290/.333 with three home runs, three doubles, and just eight RBI across 96 at-bats thus far. It’s not for a lack of opportunity either, as he’s been getting pretty regular playing time, and even seeing consistent starts against righties and lefties. For a good chunk of the season he was also hitting in the top half of the order as well, as Charlie Montoyo has shown a preference for breaking up his right and left-handed hitters, which pushed Shaw up in the lineup.

However, as he’s struggled the Blue Jays have also gotten deeper, as they acquired Jonathan Villar to lengthen their infield corps. In fact, once Bichette is able to re-join the Blue Jays, it’s likely that either Villar or possibly Cavan Biggio could start playing third base on a more regular basis, which would push Shaw out of the lineup altogether. Typically he could be used as a versatile bench piece for the Blue Jays and even a pinch-hitter, but they’re suddenly pretty left-hand dominant off the bench, so that’s not ideal either.

If the Blue Jays are going to roll with 13 position players, they could end up having to make a tough decision, which could include their off-season gamble. Assuming the others are healthy, which could be a big if of course, then the Blue Jays likely have their lineup looking something like this:

1- Biggio (2B)
2- Bichette (SS)
3- Grichuk (CF)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
5- Guerrero Jr. (1B)
6- Rowdy Tellez (DH)
7- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
8- Danny Jansen (C)
9- Villar (3B)

Bench

Reese McGuire
Derek Fisher
Santiago Espinal
Joe Panik/Shaw

Again, this is assuming everyone is healthy, but the Blue Jays could also elect to add another right-handed bat to the active roster, such as Jonathan Davis, who was added to the taxi squad a few days ago, or keep an eye on the waiver wire for another option. Otherwise Shaw could be in a battle for a roster spot with Espinal and Panik, who both can play multiple positions including shortstop, and Espinal hits from the right side.

It’s possible the Blue Jays will send Espinal back to the taxi squad instead, as he does have minor league options, but I wouldn’t rule out the idea that Shaw could be playing for his job right now. The timing isn’t great for the Ohio native either, as he’s mired in a 7-41 slump (.171), has dropped to the bottom third of the order, and hasn’t looked confident at all.

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Hopefully he’ll be able to turn things around, but it’s not the end of the world if he can’t. The front office took a gamble on a bounce-back season from him, and they didn’t have to spend a pile to do it. As the Blue Jays are evolving into a very competitive team, Shaw is going to have to get things going in short order, or he may just end up left behind.

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