The Toronto Blue Jays signed Travis Shaw in the hopes he’ll bounce back and it could prove to be a rather smart move
The Toronto Blue Jays rook a bit of a gamble signing Travis Shaw to a one year deal worth $4M. In the context of modern baseball, it is not a large sum of money, so the risk is limited, but the fact remains that Shaw is a gamble. His 2019 season saw him put up some of the worst numbers in all of baseball, which means Toronto is banking on a comeback, which is possible and could result in a big steal for Ross Aktins & Co.
At Fangraphs, Brendon Gawlowski writes that Toronto “savvily signs” Shaw. In this piece, Gawlowski points out all of the futility that came from Shaw’s bat in 2019. Just about every category is cringe-worthy. However, it is pointed out that his swing and miss numbers were worse, which was likely caused by an unhealthy increase in his launch angle. In short, he went from a 16.6 degree angle to 24.5 degrees. This led to an increase in flyballs, infield flyballs and the worst GB/FB rate of his big league career.
So, the Blue Jays swoop in and sign him after he was jettisoned by the Brewers. They’re hoping that some work on his launch angle and a move to the AL East will bring back the 30+HR, ~120 wRC+, 3+ fWAR infield presence. Gawlowski ends his piece thusly: “A return to form won’t necessarily propel Toronto to the top of a very competitive AL East, but combined with a number of promising young players, it would go some way toward making the Blue Jays a fun club to watch in 2020. Between that and his potential re-sale value, what’s not to like?”
This leads one to think about where Shaw fits into the Blue Jays roster and what kind of impact a return to effectiveness could have on the team’s 2020 fortunes.
The truth is that, while his offense was abysmal, Shaw’s defense was right in step with his career numbers, all of which have been positive. His 2019 3 2.1 Def rating at Fangraphs comes from 1 DRS and UZR/150 of 33.5 at 1B and 3 DRS and UZR/150 of 2.3 at the hot corner. Defensively, Shaw can spell guys at third, first and second and the Blue Jays would not miss a beat. In fact, looking at Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s DRS and UZR/150, Shaw would be a bit of an upgrade.
You can bet the Blue Jays will allow Vlad Jr the opportunity to improve his defense in 2020, which means that Shaw would be looked at for playing time on the right side of the diamond. The most obvious spot is at first where Rowdy Tellez looks to be the incumbent. That said, it wouldn’t take much to unseat Tellez given his rather poor offensive showing in 400 plate appearances last season. Assuming Shaw fixes his launch angle issues and Tellez continues his inconsistency, the Blue Jays could use Shaw on an everyday basis there.
What is likely to happen is that Spring Training will be used to allow each hitter to gain some consistency and for one of them to win the starting job. All things being equal, the fact that Shaw can play multiple positions means that he should have an edge. Of course, the ideal situation would be that both players have tremendous springs and show signs that it is not just a hot streak, which would force the Blue Jays into a tough decision.
Here’s the thing: this kind of tough decision is something that could propel the Blue Jays forward in 2020. A return to form for Shaw could mean a few more wins for Toronto. Something closer to his 2017/2018 showing would elongate this Toronto offense, which looks to make things rather difficult on opposing pitchers. Again, assuming the launch angle issue can be sorted, this could prove to be a rather nice pick up for the Blue Jays.
Because Shaw has just over 4 years of MLB service time, he is actually arbitration eligible next winter. That means that a bounce back from him could mean an extra year in Toronto, which would make Atkins look rather intelligent. If they try to flip him at the Trade Deadline (or even next offseason), the return could be rather nice. It gives the club options.
and, that is the name of this game. Signing a guy should always benefit the team in a number of ways. It doesn’t always work out like that, and Shaw very well could prove to be a bust. However, the signs point to a player who could rebound nicely, which would provide the Toronto Blue Jays will a number of positive outcomes over the next year.
In the context of a team looking to improve on a 95 loss season, this move could be seen as a shot in the dark. But, in the context of the Toronto Blue Jays looking to take a chance and significantly improve their on field product, signing Travis Shaw looks rather nice.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.