The Boston Red Sox had been connected to top free agent Freddie Freeman before the former Brave signed in Los Angeles, and while that would have been an exciting move it wasn’t the most immediate need as the Red Sox have Bobby Dalbec at first base with Triston Casas waiting in the wings. That said, they could at least use a little more depth at the position, preferably a left-handed bat to complement Dalbec. They acquired some of that depth Friday morning according to a report from Chris Cotillo, bringing back Travis Shaw. It’s a minor-league deal for the former Boston ninth round selection.
As we try to mention any time a minor-league deal is signed, it’s hard to really have a super strong opinion on these, especially in the negative. Shaw is not taking up a 40-man spot and this is really a no-risk kind of signing. We know there is some upside here given how Shaw performed early in his career, particularly soon after being traded to Milwaukee when he two straight seasons in which he was roughly 20 percent better than the league-average hitter by wRC+.
That said, he has been below-average each of the last three seasons. Last year he hit .200/.286/.373 for a 78 wRC+, which puts him 22 percent below average. It should be noted, though, that after Boston acquired him late in 2021 he hit much better, putting up a 122 wRC+ in a small 48-plate appearance sample.
As things stand now, Shaw would seemingly have a decent chance at making this roster out of camp despite being signed to a minor-league deal. The left-handed bat gives them a good power option off the bench, and as noted above can spell Dalbec at times against tough righties while the team waits for Casas to be ready for his big-league debut. More additions will hopefully be made and that could hurt Shaw’s chances, but right now the bench needs a lot of work.
If Jarren Duran is starting the year in Triple-A as expected, the three non-catcher bench spots would likely be going to players like Jonathan Araúz, Rob Refsnyder, Yolmer Sánchez, Franchy Cordero, or other fringe players such as that. Shaw should have a legitimate chance of beating out that kind of competition, though again other additions would make it a murkier situation.
In addition to Shaw, the Red Sox also announced on Friday that they were bringing back catcher Deivy Grullón, also on a minor-league deal. The catcher had spent some time in the Red Sox organization back in 2020. He’s a bat first catcher without much experience in the majors, and is likely a hedge in case of an injury, as Boston has two similar catchers in Ronaldo Hernández and Connor Wong slated to start the year in Triple-A.