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Travis Shaw returns to Brewers with minor league deal

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

Sep 21, 2020; Buffalo, New York, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Travis Shaw (6) throws out New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit (59) (not pictured) after fielding a ground ball during the third inning at Sahlen Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Shaw is back in Milwaukee to give the Brewers one more option for their unsettled situation at third base.

The Brewers announced Tuesday that Shaw has signed a minor league contract that includes an invitation to major league camp.

“I think he fits into a need that we have,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He has an opportunity to earn something. That’s how it was presented to Travis, and I think that’s what excited him about the opportunity.”

If added to the 40-man roster, Shaw would get a one-year contract paying $1.5 million while in the major leagues and $250,000 while in the minors. He could earn $1.5 million in performance bonuses for plate appearances: $50,000 each for 250, 275 and 300, $75,000 apiece for 325, 350 and 375, $125,000 for 400, $150,000 for 425, $250,000 for 450 and $300,000 each for 475 and 502.

If not added to the roster by March 15, Shaw would be released unless put on within 72 hours of a formal request.

Shaw, who turns 31 on April 16, last played for the Brewers from 2017-19. That three-year stint included some notable highs and lows.

He had 31 homers, 101 RBIs and an .862 OPS in 2017. Shaw followed that up with 32 homers, 86 RBIs and an .825 OPS in 2018. But he tailed off dramatically in 2019, hitting just .157 with a .281 on-base percentage, .270 slugging percentage, seven homers and 16 RBIs in 86 games.

“The Brewers have seen me at my absolute best and they’ve also seen me in my absolute worst in 2019,” Shaw said Tuesday from the Brewers’ spring-training site in Phoenix. “So the fact that they reached out and were open to a reunion meant a lot to me.”

When the Brewers declined to offer him a contract after the 2019 season, Shaw spent 2020 with the Toronto Blue Jays and hit .239 with a .306 on-base percentage, six homers, 17 RBIs and a .717 OPS in 50 games.

After slumping in August, Shaw rebounded to bat .270 with an .821 OPS in September. That late has Shaw feeling confident he’s corrected some of the issues that caused him to struggle so much his last year in Milwaukee.

“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. There was not very much solid contact. For me, it was getting a little bit back to more of a line-drive approach. That was the thing that I focused on the most, trying to barrel up as many balls as I could and hit balls hard, whether that was a line drive or in the air.”

The Brewers enter spring training without a clear-cut starting third baseman.

Luis Urias and Orlando Arcia are each working out at both shortstop and third base this spring. Urias was at third base for 30 of his 41 appearances last season, while Arcia was almost exclusively a shortstop.

The Brewers signed Daniel Robertson, a utilityman who considers third base his best position. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio acknowledged Tuesday the team also “made a good run at Justin Turner,” who opted to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers and signed a $34 million, two-year deal that includes a club option for a third year.

” I think that was always the place you thought he was going to land,” Attanasio said. “But he did a huge amount of homework on us. Talked to not only a lot of folks in the organization -- players he knew and obviously Couns and (president of baseball operations) David Stearns. He got familiar enough to David that he called him `Stearnsie,’ and I’m not sure anybody’s ever called David `Stearnsie.’ ”

The chance to compete at third base appealed to Shaw, who said his talks with Milwaukee really picked up once Turner signed with the Dodgers.

“There was an opening at third base and pretty decent playing time available there as long as I came in and hit and did what I’m supposed to do,” Shaw said. “This place kind of stood out to me from the start, and it was something that I hoped would come together.”

NOTES: Attanasio said the Brewers would conduct a walkthrough of American Family Field with Milwaukee health officials Friday. The Brewers have submitted a plan to the city that would allow for fans to fill 35% of the ballpark’s capacity for home games. ... Attanasio encouraged players to get vaccinated in time for the start of the season and noted health officials would feel more comfortable relaxing protocols once everyone’s vaccinated. “Look, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work,” Attanasio said. “Understanding that it’s hard to have someone put it in their body, but I put it in my mom’s 92 +-year-old body, and she’s doing great.”