Brandon Crawford is a free agent for the first time in his 13-year career.
The All-Star shortstop debuted with the San Francisco Giants in 2011, winning four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and two World Series titles across his 1655-game tenure with the club. He is undoubtedly the greatest shortstop to play for the Giants in their San Francisco era (1957-present) and one of the greatest infielders in the franchise’s long and storied history.
At 37 years old, Crawford is not the game-changing player he once was. His offensive output has plummeted in each of the past two seasons. He was worth a mere 0.4 FanGraphs WAR in 2023.
Meanwhile, various defensive metrics offer a mixed review of his skills at short. According to Statcast Outs Above Average, his range remains elite. However, the rest of the advanced stats, DRS, UZR, and DRP, all suggest Crawford has been below average for the past two seasons.
The infield market is weak this winter, but even so, there is no doubt there are better shortstops still available. Tim Anderson and Amed Rosario are intriguing bounce-back candidates. Elvis Andrus is another grizzled vet, but he is two years younger and a little bit quicker.
Nonetheless, Crawford has real skills to offer a major league team in 2024. In an ideal world, he can start 100-plus games at shortstop and provide close-to-league-average production. In a less optimistic scenario, he can play shortstop off the bench a few times a week and bring valuable postseason experience to his new club. That’s not nothing.
Here are a few places the Gold Glover could wind up.
Brandon Crawford’s Top 5 Landing Spots
Crawford has not been formally linked to any teams this winter, at least not by a credible source. Indeed, all we really know is that a reunion with the Giants “appears out of the question” (per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic).
However, Rosenthal recently reported that multiple unspecified clubs have expressed interest in Crawford this winter. Without any further details, all we can do is speculate. Who might his anonymous suitors be?
Jon Berti should get plenty of reps at shortstop in 2024, but the Marlins do not have a bona fide backup on the roster. The newly-acquired Vidal Bruján is the best option, but he is not really a shortstop.
To that end, Miami was recently linked to Adalberto Mondesi, suggesting they are indeed in the market for another shortstop. Crawford would probably cost a little more than Mondesi, but he is also a more reliable player. Moreover, the left-handed Crawford would make a better platoon partner for the right-handed Berti. Mondesi is a switch-hitter but has better career numbers against left-handed pitching.
The A’s will play in Oakland for at least one more year, so if Crawford wants to stay in the Bay Area, this could be a good fit. The team’s best options at shortstop right now are Nick Allen (.549 career OPS), Aledmys Díaz (-3 OAA, -9 DRS in 40 games at SS last season), and Darell Hernaiz (22 years old, no MLB experience), so manager Mark Kotsay could certainly use an alternative.
What’s more, all three of Allen, Díaz, and Hernaiz are righty batters, so Crawford could platoon with any or all of them.
In recent years, the Guardians have been hesitant to sign veteran role players when they could fill those spots with cheaper youngsters instead. Thus, with Cleveland having already signed Austin Hedges to a $4 million deal and not (yet) having offloaded Shane Bieber’s eight-figure salary, I doubt they will “splurge” on Crawford.
At the same time, the fit is there. Brayan Rocchio and Gabriel Arias are fun young players, but neither has proven himself ready to handle a full-time role. The Guardians could use some assurance at shortstop if they are going to challenge for the division title in 2024.
The Pirates already have a lefty-batting shortstop who figures to get the bulk of the playing time, but they do not have a good second-string option behind Oneil Cruz.
Pittsburgh has no qualms about spending money on veterans to flip at the trade deadline, and Cruz could use a good backup as he makes his return from ankle surgery.
Like their NL Central rivals, the Brewers need a backup shortstop. Willy Adames is terrific, but the only other shortstop on the roster is Brice Turang. If Milwaukee wants Turang to continue to grow and thrive at second base, it would be smart to add someone like Crawford so Turang can focus on fielding his new position.
Is Brandon Crawford Considering Retirement?
Ken Rosenthal has also reported that Crawford might consider retirement, “if the right opportunity does not arise.” The three-time All-Star wants to prolong his playing career, but, understandably, he also wants to go out on his own terms. Simply put, there is nothing else left for him to achieve.
No one could blame Brandon Crawford if he would rather ride off into the sunset to spend more time with his family than spend a year riding the bench for a rebuilding club. Retirement is a real possibility.