Since before this offseason began, the Brewers and their fans knew that third base was going to be one of the biggest needs that would have to be addressed this offseason.
For months, we waited. Jedd Gyorko and Eric Sogard had their contract options declined, and free agency began. Silence. The non-tender deadline came, putting more free agents on the market. Nothing. The Winter Meetings? Nothing. January rolled around, and rumors started of interest in Justin Turner and Jose Ramirez.
Nolan Arenado got traded to the Cardinals for some spare parts and a stick of gum. Turner or Ramirez would’ve been the best options to answer that trade, but the Indians are holding on to Ramirez and Turner decided to go back to LA.
So that left the Brewers with a couple of options. Remaining on the free agent market at third base were Maikel Franco, Jake Lamb, Gyorko, and Travis Shaw. David Stearns was familiar with Gyorko and Shaw while Franco and Lamb had good stretches and had promise, but were far from sure things. Really this whole group is far from a sure thing.
Of these options, Stearns chose to make a deal with Travis Shaw, bringing back the former Brewers third baseman from 2017-2019 and the centerpiece in one of his best trades as Brewers GM.
Travis Shaw had the highest ceiling of any remaining third base option and provides the answer at the hot corner for the Brewers in 2021.
When Travis Shaw is on his game, he’s a 30+ home run threat and the Brewers have seen this firsthand. He’s a .340-.350 OBP hitter in the middle of the order with an above-average bat and plenty of power from the left side. No one else on the free agent market had that potential after Turner signed.
A lot of fans remember the 2019 struggles, but that was likely more just a one-off struggle year rather than an indication that Shaw is actually a bad player. He’d been a very good player and good hitter over the previous two seasons and what happened in 2019 was that he started off in a slump, pressed to get out of it, tried too hard, and put himself in a deeper downward spiral. That was entirely a mental issue past the month of April that year.
In 2020, he rebounded in the shortened season, finding his power stroke again as his traditional and advanced numbers went in a positive direction. If the Brewers can find 2017-18 Travis Shaw again, that’s a huge pickup for this roster.
It’s a minor league deal with a non-roster invite, but Shaw stands a pretty good chance of making the team given the other options at third base. Luis Urias is more of a shortstop and will likely battle for that job with Orlando Arcia while Daniel Robertson is a solid depth piece that can play all around.
Fans have been waiting to see who is going to man third base in 2021 for the entire offseason and it took until the day before pitchers and catchers reported for the Brewers to finally find someone.
Is Shaw the long-term answer? Maybe, maybe not. But he’s the answer in 2021 and that was probably the best case scenario after Turner spurned the Crew’s offer.