The Mariners announced tonight that they’ve optioned shortstop J.P. Crawford to Triple-A Tacoma. While the move isn’t entirely unexpected after Seattle signed Tim Beckham as a stopgap at shortstop this winter, it’s still of some note. Crawford will eventually receive the opportunity to prove that he can be the Mariners’ shortstop of the future, though the former first-round pick and highly touted prospect has yet to establish himself at the MLB level (hence the Phillies’ willingness to move him as part of the Jean Segura trade).
Crawford came to the Mariners with a year and 20 days of big league service time, meaning he’ll need to accrue 152 days of service in 2019 to reach the two-year plateau. As it stands, the Mariners control him through the end of the 2023 season, although if he remains in the minors for five weeks, the Mariners would control him through the end of the 2024 campaign.
The extent to which that’ll be a factor in determining his timeline to Seattle remains to be seen, but that seems like a distinct possibility given the signing of Beckham and Crawford’s generally tepid output in an injury-shortened 2018 season. Crawford was slowed last season first by a forearm strain and later by a fractured hand, limiting him to just 123 plate appearances in the minors and 138 PAs in the Majors. In his time with the Phillies last year, the now-24-year-old Crawford mustered only a .214/.319/.393 batting line.
Clearly, the lack of big league production to this point in his career hasn’t dissuaded the Mariners from buying into Crawford’s potential, but it was clear at the time the organization signed Beckham that Crawford would have to force his way up to the big league roster, and that’s yet to transpire. Beckham signed a modest one-year, $1.75MM salary and is coming off an ugly .230/.287/.374 showing in the big leagues last season himself, and he’s capable of moving around the infield if and when the organization feels Crawford merits a look. At that point, Beckham won’t stand in the way of Crawford’s arrival. For the time being, however, Beckham will team with Ryon Healy on the left side of the Seattle infield following the recent injury to Kyle Seager.