The Milwaukee Brewers need a first baseman. Should they try Travis Shaw at first before looking outside the organization?
The Brewers thought they had the long term answer at first base figured out. However, Jesus Aguilar is with the Tampa Bay Rays and Eric Thames is currently without a team. Both were expected to stay with the team for 2020 and possibly beyond.
The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have an internal option at first base. Or do they! Travis Shaw is still on the roster and could be a part of the solution at first base.
Was Shaw really that bad in 2019?
Yes. It’s not just that Shaw had a rough year at the plate. The problem is that the Brewers gave him 270 plate appearances to slash .157/.281/.270. His .281 on-base percentage was higher than his .270 slugging percentage. That’s amazing.
Shaw managed to hit seven homers, drive in 16 runs and strike out 89 times in 86 games.
He posted a -0.8 WAR last year after two straight years with a WAR over 3.0. Shaw had an awful season from an offensive standpoint.
Can Shaw handle playing first base on defense?
He has over 800 innings at first in his career and owns a .996 fielding percentage. He’s also 6’4″ and left-handed, so he’s physically equipped to handle first base. The defensive side of this equation isn’t a concern.
Why try Shaw at first base in 2020?
Well, the Brewers need to find someone to handle first base and most of the available free agent options at first are uninspiring, expensive, or both. Also, Shaw can’t be any worse at the plate than he was in 2019…can he?
Should there be a platoon?
Adding a right-handed hitter to handle tough lefties and give Shaw an occasional break would make sense if the Brewers decide this is the way to go.
Howie Kendrick can handle first, hits right-handed, and was fantastic against lefties last year. In 2019, Kendrick slashed .376/.421/.615 in 126 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2019. He can also play other positions and can come off the bench as a pinch hitter. A Shaw / Kendrick combination would make sense for the Brewers at first base next year.
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Shaw is an option at first base, but he could also end up getting designated for assignment and released. Shaw is expected to get over $4.5 million in salary arbitration this off season. That’s a lot of money for a hitter who was arguably the worst offensive player on the team last year. The Brewers could just as easily DFA Shaw and spend money pairing a lefty with a righty like Kendrick, or signing a true ‘every day’ first baseman. Either way, it’s not a sure thing that Shaw will get a chance at first base. He could just as easily end up on the free agent market. The Brewers have an option in Shaw, but he may not be the best option for a team looking to return to the playoffs in 2020.