Analyzing the idea of Travis Shaw returning to the Red Sox

Rob Bradford
December 03, 2019 - 9:43 am
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There was a flurry of familiar names who became free agents Monday thanks to their respective teams choosing not to extend contract offers.

Aaron Sanchez. Blake Treinen. Tim Beckham. C.J. Cron. Maikel Franco. Addison Russell. Kevin Gausman. And of course, there were the two players coming off the Red Sox' 40-man roster, Marco Hernandez and Josh Osich.

But perhaps the most intriguing name of the bunch was Travis Shaw.

Milwaukee (who has already cut about $60 million off its 2019 payroll this offseason) decided that it wasn't going to be worth the $4.7 million Shaw was in line to make via arbitration to find out if the infielder could rediscover his pre-2019 form. The Brewers tried to work out a deal to keep the 29-year-old but according to Shaw's agent the player thought it was time to move on.

What a coincidence. The Red Sox seem to be in the market for a left-handed-hitting first baseman.

The last we saw Shaw as an employee of the Sox it was as the centerpiece of the trade that brought Tyler Thornburg to Boston leading into the 2017 season. Over the next two years, he thrived with the Brewers, totaling a combined 63 home runs and .844 OPS. But in 2019 his career took a turn for the worse, appearing in just 86 big-league games while spending a good chunk of the season at Triple-A. His final numbers for the campaign with Milwaukee were ugly, hitting just .157 with a .551 OPS and seven homers. (It was the lowest batting average for any player appearing in 86 games or more.)

So, should the Red Sox take a chance on their former corner infielder?

There is a lot to be intrigued by when it comes to Shaw. Not only do you have the production from those two years with the Brewers, but there is also his ability to play three positions (third base, second base, first base) on a roster that may be looking for positional flexibility if Brock Holt leaves. 

The most logical hole Shaw could potentially fill is at first base, where a left-handed-hitting complement to either Michael Chavis and/or Bobby Dalbec seems to be a logical target for Chaim Bloom. Yes, the likes of Mitch Moreland would offer more immediate certainty and if he agreed to return on another one-year, reduced-rate deal that would seem to be the way to go. But if Moreland's price tag is viewed as something putting much more of a dent in the Sox' payroll than the likes of a Shaw deal, than the former Brewer would seemingly be a good option.

Committing to Shaw would be somewhat of a risk considering his 2019 struggles, but no more than the other lefty-hitting free-agent first baseman so many are surfacing, former Yankee Greg Bird. And, once again, we're talking about a guy who can fill in three different spots on the diamond.

Bloom said he wanted to look under every rock when trying to build these Red Sox. Shaw would seem to be worthy of at least a peek.