The Mayor is Back: Travis Shaw Inks Minor-League Deal With the Brewers
The Mayor of Ding Dong City is joining Brewers camp with a chance to take back his former job at third base.
On Monday, I suggested that Travis Shaw was the best option to fill the Brewers third base vacancy left on the free agent market. Less than 48 hours later, they signed him to a minor-league deal with a camp invite, potentially bringing him back to the city where he had his two most successful seasons.
The veteran corner infielder, however, saw things go horribly wrong in his last season donning the navy and gold. His strikeout rate ballooned, and he hit an alarming number of pop-ups, which produced a miserable .157/.281/.270 line (48 wRC+) and led to a non-tender. He then caught on with the Blue Jays, where his batted ball numbers rebounded, but he was still a tick below average at the plate (92 wRC+). Both Shaw and his agent appeared to hint at strained relations with the Brewers on his way out in 2019, but any hard feelings between the two sides appear to have been resolved.
Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Shaw’s deal comes with a base salary of $1.5 million plus an additional $1.5 million in incentives if he cracks the big league roster. If the Brewers have not promised him a spot by March 15, Shaw can elect to opt out and return to the free agent market.
While he is not guaranteed a place on the club, Shaw is well-positioned to reclaim his former job at the hot corner for Milwaukee. Barring another addition, his main competitors for the position are Luis Urias and Daniel Robertson, both of whom are right-handed hitters. Urias has long had promise and demonstrated solid glovework at the hot corner last year, but he has struggled in 422 big-league plate appearances, and his bat profiles better at a middle infield position. He is also an option to take some at-bats at shortstop from Orlando Arcia. Robertson owns a career slash line of .234/.342/.320 and a roughly league-average 97 wRC+, but he may be best suited for a more versatile role.
While Shaw is arguably the favorite to get the lion’s share of playing time at third, he could still see time across the diamond. Keston Hiura will be playing the position for the first time in his professional career, and Shaw can provide a left-handed complement to him there (Dan Vogelbach is a left-handed hitter, but the Brewers have avoided committing to using him in the field beyond absolute necessities). He could also serve as a defensive replacement for Hiura late in games.
ZiPS projects Shaw to slash .229/.320/.432 with 22 home runs, good for a 97 wRC+. PECOTA predicts a nearly identical .231/.319/.428 slash and 98 DRC+. He is far more likely to be a league-average bat than the borderline All-Star he was a few years ago, but he has a solid chance of performing better than any of the Brewers other internal options at third base. Even if he can’t completely reclaim his old form, Shaw could still be a productive player, and on a non-guaranteed deal, he comes with no risk.
And hopefully, we’ll get to see some Ding Dongs.