The Royals made a notable move at third base Thursday when they agreed to sign former Phillie Maikel Franco to a deal worth just under $3MM in guaranteed money. It turns out the Royals’ decision at the hot corner came down to Franco and Travis Shaw, as Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. But Franco’s “younger with more upside (and more cost-efficient),” notes Flanagan, which helped lead the rebuilding Royals to go in his direction.
Kansas City’s betting on a revival from the 27-year-old Franco, a former high-end prospect whose career began with a flourish but has fallen apart over the past few past seasons. Shaw, whom the Brewers non-tendered at the outset of this month, may have been even worse than Franco last season. However, Shaw has been the more successful of the two in recent years, and he’s confident he’ll return to his top form in 2020.
“Never been more motivated,” Shaw told reporter Robert Murray via text. “Can’t wait for 2020 to start. Someone is gonna get lucky.”
Shaw, set to turn 30 next April, was terrific during a two-year stretch from 2017-18. He combined for 7.1 fWAR on the strength of a .258/.347/.497 line with 63 home runs in 1,193 plate appearances during that span. Unfortunately for the Brewers and Shaw, though, his production collapsed last season – a year in which he hit a horrific .157/.281/.270 with seven HRs and minus-0.8 fWAR over 270 trips to the plate. The Brewers moved on as a result, even though they had no obvious third base solution with Mike Moustakas then a free agent (and now a member of the division-rival Reds), and it’s difficult to blame them for not wanting to pay a projected $4.7MM in arbitration in light of Shaw’s 2019 production.
Now, although Shaw’s most recent output was downright bad, it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll fare in free agency. Viable third base options on the open market have shrunk since the offseason commenced, with Josh Donaldson the lone clear-cut starter left. Teams that don’t sign Donaldson (or have little to no chance of reeling in the soon-to-be high-paid star) could turn to Shaw and hope for a bounce-back campaign.