Making sense of Boston’s interest in Travis Shaw reunion
According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Boston Red Sox have expressed interest in a reunion with former corner infielder Travis Shaw.
Shaw played 206 games in Boston between 2015 and 2016, slashing .251/.312/.442 with a wRC+ of 97. Then he was traded as part of the package to acquire Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers.
Milwaukee was where Shaw took off. Before an abysmal 2019 took place, the 30-year-old put up 7.7 rWAR, slashed .258/.347/.497, and had consecutive seasons with 30 or more home runs. But struggles in 2019 and 2020 soon followed.
Now, a couple of weeks before pitchers and catchers report, Shaw is still looking for employment.
Enter the Boston Red Sox.
In an offseason that started slow but has picked up its pace in Boston, the consensus over the past month has been a desire to bring in a left-handed hitter to pair with Bobby Dalbec. Even though the 25-year-old burst onto the scene in a dreadful 2020 season, the swing-and-miss aspect of his game was incredibly glaring. Dalbec struck out more than 42 percent of his plate appearances, reaching base at a .359 clip. So any given time the slugger would stride up to the plate, he was more likely to strike out than he was to reach safely.
A high strikeout rate is becoming quite the phenomenon of the launch angle era baseball has entered. However, 42.4 percent of the time is exceedingly high. Though it was only 92 plate appearances, it still is a cause for concern.
However, in recent months, the team has reportedly expressed interest in Brad Miller, Marwin Gonzalez, and even another marriage with Mitch Moreland. While fans have been clamoring for Moreland, as he’s a familiar face, they’re failing to see why he makes the least sense of the three (now four) potential options.
While on a rate basis, Moreland ranks second in that group in wRC+ (106) and first in wOBA (.335) since 2017, he is glued to one spot. Whereas Gonzalez, Miller, and Shaw can be moved around a little––especially along the infield.
But why does Shaw pique the team’s interest? When you condense the sample size from four years to the last two, he’s significantly worse than his peers.
In all honesty, that could be precisely why they’ve expressed interest. Gonzalez, Miller, and even Moreland, to an extent, have a market. Shaw, based on recent performance, could very likely have a minuscule one. While Boston may have to commit anywhere between $3 and $7 million per season for the other three, Shaw might not even warrant a major league contract.
If so, for very little.
But back to the point about versatility, Shaw has played first, second, and third base during his career. What makes him so valuable to this team specifically is he can platoon with––or relieve––multiple people simultaneously. For example, recently-signed utility-man Enrique Hernández has a wRC+ of just 82 against right-handed pitchers––Shaw’s is 110. The former will likely play second base, while the latter has shown the ability to play the position.
Not to mention Shaw’s and Hernández’s versatility can give anybody outside of Christian Vázquez a day off. Marwin Gonzalez and Brad Miller can provide that too, but they likely will cost more than Shaw.
Given that the Red Sox have less than $6 million remaining space under the tax, Shaw easily makes the most sense. They don’t need to sign any of these players, but it’s always nice to see they’re exploring different avenues to improve the roster.