There were several reasons why sending Keston Hiura down for Travis Shaw was a mistake for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Though there were several good reasons for sending Hiura down for Shaw, there were several compelling reasons not to.
First, although Hiura’s underlying numbers suggested some regression at the plate was likely forthcoming, his production up until this point was absolutely incredible on offense. In fact, his offensive production over his first 16 Major League games looked quite familiar.
Hiura was widely regarded as one of the best hitting prospects in baseball before the season began. In fact, Baseball America wrote before the season began, that Hiura may be the team’s best hitting prospect since Ryan Braun. His start to the season, both at Triple-A, and on the Major League roster, did nothing to dispel those lofty comparisons.
Had Hiura struggled in his limited Major League exposure while Shaw was down, the decision would have been an easy one for all involved. However, with Hiura producing similar production to 2007 Braun on offense, it seemed like a no-brainer for the club to keep their top prospect and potential building-block of the future on the team.
Has there been a similar scenario in the past?
Perhaps most Milwaukee Brewers fans anger could be summarized perfectly by this analogy: What if the Brewers decided back in 2007 to send Braun down, after his incredible start to his Major League career, because Bill Hall was back from the Injured List?
That is, of course, a bit of an unfair comparison for Shaw. Hall was never the consistent player that Shaw has been, though his two peak seasons in Milwaukee may have been better. However, given how poor Shaw was playing before his injury, it’s not a stretch to compare the two.
Milwaukee was not in a position where they needed to rush Shaw back into the line-up either. Unlike the struggling Aguilar, Shaw DOES have a minor league option left. Given that his batting line in Triple-A wasn’t lights out on his rehab assignment (.235/.357.324 with just one extra base hit in 34 at-bats) it seemed like a considerable risk for Milwaukee to rush him back so soon, especially when considering how bad he was before his IL stint (his WAR of -0.8 entering play Tuesday night was tied with Aguilar for the worst on the team).
Was there another move that could have been made?
The choice of who to keep on the roster was also a false one in another way. Milwaukee has carried an extra bullpen arm most of the season. With off-days upcoming, and options aplenty in the bullpen to send down, Milwaukee could have sent one of their arms down to keep Hiura on the roster for the time-being. He may have struggled to start regularly if this happened, but he would have given the Brewers another solid bat to rotate into the team, increasing the competition in the line-up as a whole.
The final issue with sending Hiura down for Shaw, is that it punts on the roster issues the team will have to address in the not so distant future. Jesus Aguilar is quickly approaching the time to be DFA’d from the team. Though it may not be the ideal move because of his past production and his presence in the club house, his spot, not Shaw’s, is what’s preventing Milwaukee from keeping Hiura on the active roster right now. If he doesn’t turn it around in the very near future, Milwaukee will be forced into a move there anyway.
Given all of this, then, how does the move grade out?