Jays Journal contributors will be authoring Toronto Blue Jays report cards based on how each player performed in 2020. In this edition, we take a look at Travis Shaw.
Born: April 16, 1990, in Washington Court House, Ohio
College: Kent State University
Drafted: 32 round in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox (forego)
9th round in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox (signed)
Throw: Right Bats: Left
Position: Third Base, First Base, and Designated Hitter
After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2019/2020 off-season, Travis Shaw joined the Toronto Blue Jays on a 1-year deal worth $4 million. The Blue Jays had just lost veteran Justin Smoak to the Milwaukee Brewers and the organization was looking for a more established player to compliment younger players Rowdy Tellez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base.
Splitting a 6-year career between the Brewers and the Boston Red Sox, the ‘Mayor of Ding Dong City’ was looking to bounce back with the Blue Jays after a down 2019 season where he only slashed .157/.281/.270 with seven home runs,16 RBI, and 89 strikeouts in 230 at-bats.
With the calamity that was the 2020 season, Travis Shaw would find himself making the opening day roster, but spending more of his time at third base rather than at first base like many had predicted. With Junior moving across the diamond, the Blue Jays’ infielder started 32 of his 50 games at third base, with a few starts at first and as the designated hitter mixed in, both as a starter and as a pinch hitter.
Fielding wise, Fangraphs had Shaw ending the season with -2 defensive runs saved (DRS) at third base and a +2 at first base (albeit an obviously small sample size given the 60 game season). He would finish the season with 70 assists and three total errors, finishing with a combined 0.981 fielding percentage between both positions.
In the batter’s box, Shaw was pretty consistent throughout the year, with his batting average sitting between .200-.240 for most of the season. His slash line would sit at .239/.306/.411 by the end of the season, with his six home runs tying him with Danny Jansen for 7th best on the team. Shaw’s 17 RBI would be 9th best on the Blue Jays by season’s end, while his 50 strikeouts would be third-best on the active roster. He did hit the ball hard as a member of the Blue Jays (57.9% with medium speed), but did see his ground ball percentage climb up over 2% from last season (30.7%).
Split wise, Shaw found more success against the left-handed pitchers (295/.326/.409) compared to right-handed pitchers (218/.299/.412) with 44 and 119 at-bats respectively. He also hit all six of his home runs against RHP’s while hitting the same amount of doubles (5) against both LHP and RHP’s.
Explaining the Grade
After a poor 2019 season with the Brewers, the Toronto Blue Jays brought Travis Shaw in to be a more veteran presence on the roster, hoping that a change of scenery would bring the power back to the bat that saw him hit 31 and 32 home runs in 2017 and 2018 (respectively). With Junior and Tellez seeing a bulk of the starts at first base in 2020, the Blue Jays were able to utilize Travis Shaw across the diamond, keeping his lefty bat in the lineup for most of the season.
Overall, the 2020 season was a step forward compared to 2019, but wasn’t really one that blew fans away. The bat did find a bit of life in a Blue Jays uniform, but the strikeouts are not a pretty number to look at. Shaw did muster some home runs and RBI over the season, but it wasn’t a jaw-dropper by any means. The best way I could find to summarize his play was that he came in and did his job, not wowing anyone with epic bat flips or diving grabs, but not playing so poorly that you wanted him off the roster immediately.
All in all, the 2020 campaign was a positive step forward over a dismal past season, but one that could see some improvement in a few different areas.
Future with the Toronto Blue Jays
Entering this off-season, Travis Shaw will be in his last year of arbitration. Spotrac currently estimates that he will earn around $4.8 million if the Blue Jays were to bring him back for the 2021 season. There has been no indication that the organization is willing to bring him back/let him go, but once the World Series ends this week, the picture will certainly be more clear.
At roughly $4 million, I could see the Blue Jays bringing back Travis Shaw for another go in 2021, given that ‘potential’ replacements from within the organization like Jordan Groshans or Austin Martin are a year or two away from making the big league roster (not even guaranteed that either player will play third base). The Blue Jays could choose to non-tender Shaw, letting Santiago Espinal or Joe Panik (if he re-signs) take more reps at third next season, or potentially seeking another player via free agency/trade. Considering the Blue Jays have mentioned the possibility of improving the team from outside the organization, there is a legitimate chance that Shaw could be non-tendered again this off-season.
The ‘Mayor of Ding Dong City’ is coming up on an election year in Blue Jay’s country, and the ballots are still being counted as to whether he’ll be in office in 2021 for Canada’s only MLB team.