The Milwaukee Brewers had Travis Shaw penciled in at third base for the next few years. Shaw had a terrible 2019 season and could end up DFA’ed. How should the Brewers solve third base during the upcoming off season?
Mike Moustakas and Keston Hiura managed to save the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. Moustakas was brought in to play second base, while Travis Shaw was expected to handle third base last year. Shaw ended up slashing .157/.281/.270 in 270 plate appearances with the Brewers. He also played 42 games at Triple-A in 2019. Moustakas took over the everyday third base job, and ended the year with a .251/.329/.516 slash line. Hiura was called up to take over second base, and did exactly that. The Milwaukee Brewers can pencil Hiura into the lineup at second base for the next seven years at least. Hiura posted a .303/.368/.570 slash line in his first 84 games in the Majors.
Second base appears to be handled…for now. But what about third base?
Should the Brewers DFA Travis Shaw?
Shaw earned over $4.5 million, and should see a small raise for the 2019. It’s hard to see Shaw earning more and getting a starting job in 2020 after the year he had in 2019.
Shaw will be only 30 years old by the time Opening Day 2020 rolls around. He should get opportunities to play at the Major League level, but it’s hard to envision him as an Opening Day starter for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020. He’s a DFA candidate, but there’s also a non-zero chance that he ends up signing with the Brewers for less than his arbitration number.
How about Moustakas?
Moustakas and the Milwaukee Brewers have a mutual option worth $11 million for 2020 with a buyout worth $3 million. The Brewers would love Moustakas back on a one-year deal, but Moustakas is unlikely to agree to his option and should test free agency for the third consecutive year.
Moustakas just turned 31 years old, but his skill set is likely to remain mostly intact into his mid-30’s. He’s capable in the field and his offense doesn’t rely on his legs. As long as his bat speed holds up, Moustakas will be, essentially, the same guy in 2022 as he is now.
A three-year deal in the $13 million-to-$15 million range isn’t out of the question for Moustakas, and it’s not a ridiculous number for the Brewers. Moustakas could return as long as his contract demands aren’t unreasonable.
Anyone in the pipeline at third base?
Well, Lucas Erceg is on the Milwaukee Brewers top-30 prospects list, and he played in Triple-A last year. Erceg played 116 games in Triple-A, and appeared overmatched at times. He slashed .218/.305/.398, easily the roughest full season of his career. Erceg did manage a walk rate over 10%, but his strikeout rate was over 25%.
He needed a breakout year to really establish himself as a possibility for the Majors, and that simply didn’t happen. Erceg should start 2020 in Triple-A, and he’ll need to show improvement if he’s going to make it to baseball’s highest level.
Are there any other free agent options?
Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon are available…and probably well outside the Milwaukee Brewers price range. If the Brewers miss out on Moustakas, names like Logan Forsythe, Todd Frazier, and Asdrubal Cabrera could be possibilities…The Brewers really need to bring back Moustakas.
The choices at third base for the Milwaukee Brewers for 2020 appear to be obvious at this point. DFA Shaw and bring back Moustakas on a multi-year deal looks like the most logical course of action. The Brewers tried to cobble together an infield with Shaw, Moustakas, Hiura, and a few other splitting time, and it didn’t work. Moustakas, Hiura, and Shaw need to play every day. Two of those players proved that they deserve the playing time. The other looks like he needs a change of scenery that goes beyond San Antonio.