Veteran shortstop Brandon Crawford recently signed with the Cardinals on a one-year, $2MM deal, officially bringing to a close his 13-season tenure at shortstop for the Giants in the majors as well as his sixteen years as a member of the organization. Crawford recently spoke to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic regarding the first foray into free agency of his career and his departure from San Francisco. In doing so, he emphasized that returning to the Giants was a priority for him, but that the sentiment was not reciprocated by San Francisco brass.
“The bottom line is I was not wanted back by the one person whose (opinion) matters,” Crawford told Baggarly in reference to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Crawford went on to note that his camp gave the Giants an opportunity to counter after receiving the offer of a big league deal from the Cardinals last month, though San Francisco offered the veteran only a non-roster deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
2023 was a difficult season for the veteran, as he slashed just .194/.273/.314 in 320 trips to the plate while battling knee, hamstring, calf, and forearm issues throughout the season. Crawford’s defense, once universally regarded as elite, also began to slip somewhat last season. While Statcast’s Outs Above Average placed him in the 90th percentile of qualified fielders with a +6 figure, Fielding Bible’s Defensive Runs Saved considered him to be among the worst-fielding shortstops in the majors last year with -14 runs. All of Crawford’s numbers were a far cry from the elite production he posted during his 2021 campaign, when he slashed an excellent .298/.373/.522 at the plate while posting +16 OAA and +6 DRS in the field.
Even as Crawford’s production last year certainly left something to be desired, it’s still somewhat surprising that the Giants seemingly had minimal interest in retaining a face of the franchise with three All-Star appearances and two World Series titles with the club under his belt. After all, he’s just two seasons removed from that aforementioned dominant season that saw him earn his fourth career Gold Glove award while finishing fourth in NL MVP voting. While Crawford’s age-37 season is unlikely to see the veteran outproduce the club’s young, internal options at short such as Marco Luciano and Casey Schmitt, the veteran indicated to Baggarly that he made clear in a meeting with Zaidi back in November that he would accept a bench role to remain in San Francisco while mentoring the aforementioned young players.
Zaidi also commented on the situation to Baggarly, noting that while Crawford has “been an important member of this team and a real leader in the clubhouse” and stated his willingness to accept a smaller role with the club in 2024, he had concerns that Crawford’s presence would put additional pressure on the club’s young players to perform and potentially hinder their development.
“Having the greatest shortstop in franchise history on the bench … it was just going to create a dynamic where it was going to be harder for our young players to play with a margin of error,” Zaidi told Baggarly.
In addition, Zaidi indicated that Crawford, who had never appeared in the majors at a position other than shortstop until working a single inning on the mound last year, may not have been able to provide the club with the positional versatility necessary to secure a spot on the club’s bench. While the club seemingly intended to move Crawford off shortstop last season should their now-infamous failed deal with Carlos Correa have been finalized, Zaidi suggested the club was hoping to fill out its bench with a player both capable of playing the infield and the outfield as well as a potential threat on the basepaths.
Crawford has never played the outfield at any professional level and has just 47 stolen bases for his career, with his only 10-steal season coming during his career season back in 2021. Given those limitations, it seems the Giants preferred to go with one of the club’s internal bench options rather than commit to Crawford on a big league deal. In conversation with Baggarly, Zaidi pointed to Tyler Fitzgerald as one player already in the organization who fits the versatile role the club is hoping to fill, with Otto Lopez and Brett Wisely among other speculative options already on the club’s 40-man roster.