If the Toronto Blue Jays strike out in their attempts to upgrade third base, Travis Shaw represents an option worth discussing
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The Toronto Blue Jays seem to be linked to every big name free agent out there, but the only one that can be considered a solution to their third base situation is D.J. LeMahieu and there is the Yankees Factor that may make him less of a candidate for Toronto. There are a number of trade possibilities out there as well, but it is not really known just how much prospect capital the club would be willing to part with in this stage of their contention window.
If Ross Atkins et al swing and miss on some of the more obvious Hot Corner upgrades, there are some options available to them, including bringing back Travis Shaw.
Sure, it would be nice to dream on trade targets like Nolan Arenado or Francisco Lindor, who would indirectly improve the third base situation. Maybe a less obvious target like Javier Baez of the Cubs would be a welcome addition, but again, there is no way to predict if the asking price would be something Toronto can agree to, even if it a lower ask than anything in Arenado/Lindor talks are likely to be.
So, for a second – it’ll be quick and you can return to your Hot Stove daydreaming – let’s just play the ‘What If…’ game for a bit. What if the Blue Jays are unable to acquire a clear solution for third base? They could look to their young superstar in the making, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.who is said to have regained a more athletic form. This may not be an attractive option if you take into account the poor defense he has shown this winter in the Dominican.
The Blue Jays seem to have committed to at least trying to see if Vlad can handle third before they return him to first. That would mean that, should his defense simply not cut it, there is no solution right now. They could very well wait to get him in Dunedin for Spring Training to get a closer look before making a decision. That might be quite late to leave such a decision.
That brings us to Travis Shaw.
Last offseason, Shaw was brought in to provide some infield depth and perhaps even to tap into his power potential. After a terrible 2019 that saw Shaw put up some ugly numbers thanks to some major adjustments to his launch angle. The Blue Jays hoped that some corrections could be made and they may have had themselves a $4M bargain.
|6 Yr||6 Yr||6 Yr||642||2421||290||519||116||105||327||251||575||.243||.325||.448||.773|
|NL (||NL (||NL (||382||1463||179||303||62||70||203||174||335||.239||.335||.456||.790|
|AL (||AL (||AL (||260||958||111||216||54||35||124||77||240||.249||.311||.436||.747|
Shaw would put up 0.2 fWAR in 2020, hitting 6 HR in 50 games and cutting his K% down in the process. He also brought his Launch Angle down 5% to 19.8, the kind of improvement the club had hoped he’d make. Shaw did not return to his 2017/18 production, but he did show some positive signs at the plate. According to Fangraphs, he is projected to average 21 HR over the next two seasons and put up an average of ~1.7 fWAR with an average wOBA of .318.
Defensively, Shaw put up -1 OAA at third last year and hasn’t put up positive numbers since 2018 (2) and 2017 (11). Fangraphs has him listed as -2 DRS with a UZR/150 of 3.6, so if he is signed again, he would not be considered a Gold Glove contender, but someone capable of manning third. Shaw might look like an ideal partner for Vlad Jr, or if they don’t want to platoon the two and/or if Vlad proves unreliable, Shaw can step in full time.
None of this is to suggest that Travis Shaw is THE answer to the Blue Jays’ question marks regarding third base. However, IF Ross Atkins cannot materialize a clear upgrade, or has decided to use resource to upgrade elsewhere, Shaw just might be an affordable answer for the Blue Jays, especially if Vlad’s defense at third simply can’t be trusted. We know the club places a value of ~$9M on a single win and Shaw is projected to be worth almost two full wins. He can most certainly be had for far less than $18M in 2021. Maybe the money saved can be used to accomplish other things.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.