As it stands right now, the Brewers starting third baseman going into 2021 is Luis Urias according to their depth chart. That might be exactly what David Stearns has in mind going into next season for that position. That type of decision comes with risk in that you hope that Urias begins an ascent towards his projected ceiling.
Acknowledging Urias might be the plan, it would not be a surprise for Stearns to hedge his bets at third base. While there are not a lot of viable options at the hot corner in free agency, one that has been very successful in Milwaukee is available. Would the Brewers be open to a reunion with Travis Shaw?
The last time we saw Shaw in a Brewers uniform, he was sitting the pine most nights as the Brewers were in the middle of a playoff run. After successful 2017 and 2018 campaigns, 2019 proved a nightmare for Shaw. He started off poorly and eventually went on the injured list with a wrist injury.
Prior to going on the injured list, Shaw struck out 50 times in 135 at-bats. When he came back from injury, a very hot Keston Hiura was sent back to AAA, which was not well received by the Brewers’ fanbase.
Shaw did not fare much better once he got back into the lineup. Over the next 17 games he played in, Shaw slashed .167/.310/.313 with a 65 wRC+. He was still striking out a ton with a 32.8% K%. The result was a demotion to AAA, San Antonio.
Shaw crushed the ball while in San Antonio slashing .286/.437/.586, and he got the call to come back to Milwaukee, seeing action in late July. Unfortunately he could not break into the lineup very much after his return getting just 58 plate appearances over the next two months. He failed to do much with those 58 plate appearances either, posting a 42 wRC+. The final result was a 47 wRC+ on the season, which was second worst in baseball among qualified players.
Shaw attributed the poor performance to an adjustment he made to his swing coming into 2019. It is likely that his wrist injury played a part as well. Nevertheless, the Brewers did not tender him a contract in 2020, and he signed with Toronto. He played better with the Blue Jays, but not great, in the shortened 2020 season. He was a slightly below league average hitter with a wRC+ of 95.
What we have seen out of Travis Shaw is a man that he can hit when he is right. In 2017 and 2018, it was thought that Shaw was going to be one of the building blocks in Milwaukee. In each season he crushed 30+ home runs and was an asset defensively at third base. It is not out of the question that Shaw could return to that level of production or something approaching it. If he could do it in Milwaukee, that would be a significant upgrade at a position that produced at a miserable clip in 2020.
There is indication that he could be a big bounce back candidate in 2021. First of all, he did perform better in the shortened season of 2020, but did not ever really go on a hot/power streak. If you look at his hard hit rankings in 2020, they were better than at any time in his career.
Plus when Travis Shaw is on, his bat just plays in Milwaukee. As with Christian Yelich, AmFam Field is made for his left-handed stroke. The best years of his career happened in Milwaukee. A reunion could make a ton of sense. Milwaukee has a positional need. Travis Shaw knows the organization and thrived in it. He can thrive again. Plus, Shaw is likely to be affordable.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs