The Toronto Blue Jays are looking to move Vlad Jr to first, leaving Travis Shaw the everyday job at third base
The Toronto Blue Jays are beginning a project earlier than we might have thought. With the movement of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.over to first base, they are acknowledging that his -16 OAA (Outs Above Average) was costly. It shows that they are focused on winning more games through run prevention. It sounds like a strategy of a team that isn’t just about bridging to a competitive window. Instead, they may even be serious about 2020 being so odd that even they have a chance. The position switch all but guarantees Travis Shaw is the everyday third baseman this season, which shows the club has faith in the offseason acquisition.
Firstly, the move is somewhat surprising given what we expected from this club in 2020. A few months ago, we figured it would just about ‘taking a step forward’, improving, but not competing. This would allow Vlad Jr the opportunity to improve for one last season before they make the eventual move. The craziness of this year may have altered that in that just about any team truly could compete over just 60 games and saving runs means more because games mean more.
Regardless, as is the want of those obsessed with the Toronto Blue Jays and those who write about it, the speculation of what it all means is rampant. It could mean the club really is serious about their chances this year. It could also mean that they just want to try and improve his offensive production. But, it wouldn’t be possible unless they really believed that Travis Shaw is up to the task.
Once a 30 HR threat, Shaw saw his production fall off the face of the Earth in 2019. With the Brewers, he hit just .157 and put up a wRC+ of 47. His problem lied in his increased launch angle. In short, Shaw is not someone who hits the ball as hard as Vlad Jr, so when you increased your launch angle as dramatically as Shaw did, you run into a lot of trouble. Theoretically, it is a simple thing to fix.
The Blue Jays must have felt the same as they signed him in the offseason.
Source: Travis Shaw’s #BlueJays contract has a $4 million base salary. Value could climb to $4.675 million through incentives —$175k for 350 PA, and $125k each for 400/450/500/550 PA.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 22, 2019
Of course, the plate appearances are not likely to happen due to the short season. However, it shows that if he can produce, he’ll stick around. If he can’t, he won’t be seeing a bonus, which is much smaller than the guaranteed money, but is certainly incentive, even if it is not quite high enough to cover the fine for not following quarantine.
Despite his offensive struggles, the Blue Jays are interested in his defensive capabilities, particularly third. We all figured his 2020 job would primarily be at first, but the recent move means Shaw goes back to the position that saw him produce 11 OAA in 2017. His glove was worth 2 OAA in 2018 and 1 in 2019. Even if he is more 2019 than 2017, he’s still an upgrade over Vlad Jr. In 2019, he put up 1 DRS (9 in 2018) and a UZR/150 of 2.3 according to Fangraphs. Because of his poor offensive showing last season, he played just 86 games.
If you’re the Blue Jays, you have to think that you’re going to see better defense with Shaw at third and Vlad Jr at first. It shows a focus on run prevention, but it also shows that they must feel confident in Shaw’s bouncing back. Otherwise, they would have to turn to the likes of Brandon Drury, which is less than ideal, to say the least. If they didn’t feel confident in Shaw’s return to production, they could have just kept things the same as Rowdy Tellez is available to platoon with Shaw.
So, it looks as though the Toronto Blue Jays have seen improvements in Shaw. For what it’s worth, in Spring Training, he hit 2 homers, but just .214 and struck out 15 times in 32 at bats. It doesn’t show much improvement, but it also doesn’t show the whole picture. The organization would have much more info to go on from working with him for months and that info seems to make them comfortable with his as the everyday third baseman.
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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.