Ken Rosenthal reports in the Athletic that the Milwaukee Brewers have been giving Travis Shaw work at second base while at home recently. Rosenthal’s article (subscription required - and worth it) lists a couple of scenarios as to why this makes sense:
- It gives Milwaukee flexibility while exploring trade options for the Milwaukee infield. Two players that will very likely be traded during this trade deadline period, Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas, are third basemen (well, Machado can play short, too), and having flexibility with Shaw would give the Crew room for such an acquisition. (Rosenthal points out that Brewers’ GM David Stearns could very well be unlikely to give up what will be necessary to get Machado, but Moose might be a reasonable acquisition.)
- Even without a trade, there are internal options if Shaw could play second. Jesus Aguilar has played third base both this season and last, and the big man is much more agile and sure-handed than you might expect. He also has a strong enough arm for the position. He isn’t a plus defender by any means, but we’ve also seen worse.
It is important to note that shifting infielders (and Milwaukee shifts as much as anyone) means that Shaw has played in the second base position already this season. There’s also the possibility this is much ado about nothing:
Travis Shaw taking grounders at second is a crazy and fun idea, but maybe it was just a part of practicing shifts where he'd move to the right side of the infield, leaving the shortstop on the left side?— Jaymes L (@JaymesL) July 3, 2018
Rosenthal points out that the pivot on the double play requires work, but Travis isn’t totally unfamiliar with the job.
Of course, playing Shaw at second and Aguilar at third weakens the Brewers’ infield defense (especially with Brad Miller at short), but would probably give the team more defensive ability in the outfield. Eric Thames could move back to first and Ryan Braun could also go back to playing there occasionally - and Thames in the outfield is less than optimal.
That would give the Crew one of the best defensive outfields in baseball with Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich and Braun when everyone is healthy - and if Keon Broxton continues to hit some, he becomes the fourth outfielder - and a fantastic fourth outfielder he would be, defensively. And remember Domingo Santana? He’s hopefully re-finding his stroke in Colorado Springs.
Rosenthal also reports that the Orioles would prefer to get a Machado deal done sooner rather than later. It is probable that the cost of acquiring Moustakas vs Machado makes that move more appealing, and the addition of either would give Milwaukee a much deeper line-up (with Shaw at second).
And the line-up would be much deeper with just the shift of Aguilar to third, at least some of the time. Aguilar continues to take infield at third, too - ‘flexibility are us’.
All of this could possibly mean the end of the Nate Orf era before it gets started. Perhaps the Brewers won’t do anything until Shaw’s wrist is healthier, but it appears that Milwaukee is exploring all options in striving for more than just a playoff appearance, looking for a deep run into the post season.