Blue Jays: Arbitration eligible, should they bring back Travis Shaw?
Travis Shaw has one year left of arbitration eligibility, which means the Blue Jays have the option to retain his services. Should they?
It was an up and down first season with the Blue Jays for Travis Shaw, who signed as a free agent ahead of the 2020 campaign. He agreed to a one-year, four million dollar deal, which ended up being worth $1,481,481 after it was prorated according to spotrac.com.
The veteran provided what many would describe as a “replacement-level” production this year while slashing .239/.306/.411 with six home runs, 10 doubles, and 17 RBI in 50 games and 163 at-bats. He spent time at first and third base, and ended the season with a bWAR rating of 0.0 according to baseballreference.com.
In a lot of ways Shaw gave the Blue Jays pretty much what they should have expected, and maybe even a little more. He was coming off a disastrous 2019 season with the Brewers when he hit just .157, and he was looking to re-establish his value. The Jays signed him as insurance/depth for Rowdy Tellez at first base, but after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was moved to the cold corner, Shaw’s defensive flexibility came in handy. They didn’t pay him a whole lot by MLB standards either, especially for someone who has hit 30+ home runs on two difference occasions, so the gamble worked out fairly well even if it wasn’t the dream scenario of a full bounce back.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
As we look ahead to the future, the Blue Jays have an option in front of them as far as Shaw’s contract is concerned. He’s actually still arbitration eligible for one more time, so if the Blue Jays want to lock down his services they can, although I’m sure he’ll be due some kind of raise from the four million he was originally scheduled to make. It’s a bit of an odd case and a hard raise to predict, but it’s an option for Ross Atkins and the front office, or they could seek to re-sign him on agreeable terms without the arbitration process.
I know the Blue Jays like to control their assets, but I can’t help but wonder if they won’t let Shaw walk this winter. I’m sure he’ll be seeking an opportunity to start somewhere again in 2021, and I’m not sure the Blue Jays will have a regular place for him. They could certainly make it work, but here’s how I see the players that are “locked in” for next season.
1- Cavan Biggio (2B/3B)
2- Bo Bichette (SS)
3- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
4- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
5- Rowdy Tellez (DH)
6- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
7- Randal Grichuk (CF)
8- Shaw or ???
9- Danny Jansen/Alejandro Kirk (C)
Just as there was in 2020, the Blue Jays could find a place for Shaw in their plans for next season. That’s especially easy because he can play third, first, and even second base if needed, and Biggio’s ability to play all over the diamond gives Charlie Montoyo a lot of options. All that said, the Blue Jays showed that they’re ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2021 even under normal circumstances, and there’s a solid argument to be made that they should look for an upgrade. That’s especially the case because their payroll is pretty small with so many talented young players on pre-arbitration contracts, and realistically they should have the means to pay for almost anyone, even with the revenue lost this year because of the pandemic.
A lot will depend on the options available to them in free agency and/or trade, but they’re also not limited to pursuing a third basemen because of Biggio’s versatility. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if they might pursue an upgrade over Shaw, especially because they’re in a position where they can.
In an ideal situation, Shaw would actually work quite well as a bench piece that can play multiple positions and give you a bit of pop off the bench with a left-handed bat. I’m not sure that he’d be satisfied with that type of role in Toronto next year, although this year’s free agency period could be unlike any other, so who knows, he could be agreeable to it for one more year. If that’s the case, I’d certainly bring him back for 2021 as long as he’s not too expensive, and hope that he doesn’t have to start on a regular basis with a healthy roster. I can certainly see a role for him next year, but I just hope it’s not as a hitter in the middle of the order.