When Brandon Crawford took his trademark post between second and third base at Oracle Park for Game 162 of the San Francisco Giants season, emotions swirled. It was understood to almost surely be the final game in Crawford’s legendary Giants career, and most of us assumed the final game he’d ever play.
Now we’re trending in the other direction. A month after telling reporters that he needed time to figure out his future, it seems as though Crawford has done exactly that. And that future appears to have more baseball in it.
At the general managers meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona (which are the lesser of the two offseason front office meet-ups), Crawford’s agent, Joel Wolfe, told the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea that the 13-year veteran, four-time Gold Glove winner, three-time All-Star, and two-time champion intends to play in 2024. Of course, it takes two to tango, but Wolfe told Shea that “several teams have called and asked if he’d consider going somewhere.”
Quick update: Crawford has since told Andrew Baggarly that his mind is not yet made up.
Heard back from Brandon Crawford. He says he and his agent are gauging interest from teams but he hasn’t decided whether he will pursue playing next season. Going into free agency for the first time with an open mind.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) November 8, 2023
Not surprisingly, Wolfe made it clear that Crawford’s heart is still with the Giants, which is probably just honesty but could potentially be at attempt to put a little public pressure on a reunion. He told Shea that “it’s hard for him to imagine life anywhere else” and that if he could “write the script” he’d spend his whole career in San Francisco.
Wolfe noted that Crawford would “consider” a move to second or third base, which could certainly increase his value.
It’s been pretty clear for a while now that Crawford will not be playing for the Giants in 2024. But if any fan does want him back, you can actually draw out a semi-reasonable case, even if the Giants almost surely don’t agree with it.
Here’s the primary case. On Monday, The Athletic ranked the top 40 MLB free agents. The number of shortstops on the list? Zero. The number of second basemen on the list? One: Whit Merrifield, who was ranked No. 39, and who is primarily a corner outfielder these days.
Crawford had the worst year of his career last year. And yet, despite it, there is only one free agent shortstop who produced more fWAR than Crawford in 2023. And even that player, Elvis Andrus, spent more time at second base last year.
Were this a decade ago, when teams firmly believed in having a traditional backup shortstop, Crawford would be a slam dunk decision to re-sign to backup and mentor Marco Luciano. But in an era where the Giants are unwilling to even have their backup catcher be a single-position player, that’s just not the route the team will go.
Still, it’s fair to wonder what the team’s plans are. Unless they sign Matt Chapman (whom Andrew Baggarly spotted talking with Bob Melvin today), we can assume they’ll enter the 2024 season with J.D. Davis as the everyday third baseman, Thairo Estrada the everyday second baseman, and Luciano in between. Casey Schmitt, Brett Wisely, and Tyler Fitzgerald are exciting depth options on the 40-man roster but ... does anyone feel confident in their ability to be a go-to player to start the season? Adding veteran middle infield depth would behoove the Giants.
Unless the team makes a big trade and finds themselves suddenly down a few infielders, it’s almost positively not going to be Crawford. But if you squint, you can see a vision that allows you to temporarily forget that you might have to see Crawford jogging out of the visitor’s dugout wearing those heinous Diamondbacks jerseys next year.