For a while, life could not have been better for Travis Shaw.
Traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, the third baseman was about to finally get regular, everyday playing time and the change of scenery paid off handsomely as Shaw established himself as a cornerstone of the team's future plans with the first of two impressive offensive seasons.
Even more important, his daughter, Ryann — who was born with congenital heart disease and required multiple surgeries — was thriving thanks to the care she received at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Life was indeed good for Shaw as he went into the 2019 season, confident that the best was yet to come. Instead, he began the season mired in a funk — in part because of a nagging wrist injury — and never recovered. Just a year after the "Mayor of Ding Dong City" was smack in a lineup full of sluggers with legitimate World Series hopes, Shaw found himself out of a job when the Brewers, unable to settle on a mutually amicable contract, chose to non-tender him.
Now, Shaw is back with the Brewers after signing a minor-league contract with a chance to reclaim the job he not long ago seemed to have a claim on for the foreseeable future.
"I had two of the best years of my career here," Shaw said. "The Brewers have seen me at my absolute best and they've seen me at my absolute worst."
Identifying what exactly went wrong was not an easy process and couldn't be broken down to specific mechanical flaws or otherwise easy-fixes. So Shaw focused more on his approach, slightly adjusting his launch angle to put a greater emphasis on squaring up on balls and hitting them for line drives.
"I'm not a huge launch-angle guy but it got out of control in 2019," Shaw said. "Everything was going straight up in the air and there wasn't very much contact. There's still work to be done but I definitely took a step back in the right direction last year."
Though not nearly what he did during his first two years in Milwaukee, Shaw showed flashes of that player in 2020 with Toronto where he hit .239 with six home runs, 17 RBIs and a .717 OPS in 50 games.
Those numbers were skewed slightly by the short season as well as a 4-for-31 slump over the final seven games of August and first three of September but he went 9-for-22 over his next five games and batted .270 overall in September, with three home runs, nine RBIs and an .821 OPS.
"I felt really good with where I was at at the end of the season," Shaw said. "I'm just looking to build off that this year."
While Shaw's left-handed power is ideal for American Family Fields of Phoenix, and would fit perfectly into the Brewers' lineup, earning a roster spot won't be easy. The team plans to give Orlando Arcia work at third base this spring in order to give Luis Urias, who spent most of his first season in Milwaukee covering the hot corner, a chance to show his ability at shortstop.
The team also signed infielder Daniel Robertson, once a top prospect in the Oakland Athletics' farm system, during the off-season. Though he's viewed for now as a multi-positional option, Robertson was drafted as a third baseman and has 81 appearances (52 starts) there during his career.