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Why nearly the whole Mariners front office wanted J.P. Crawford from Philly

In trade talks with the Phillies this offseason, the Mariners always came back to J.P. Crawford. (AP)

In the latest episode of Jerry Dipoto’s Wheelhouse podcast, the Mariners general manager provided a behind-the-scenes look at how one of his more notable offseason trades came together. In this case it was the deal with Philadelphia that brought young shortstop J.P. Crawford to Seattle as part of the haul for a package that was headlined by All-Star Jean Segura.

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The trade certainly wasn’t the most well-received of Dipoto’s many moves since the end of the 2018 season, but there is plenty of time for that to change. And when you consider how the idea of getting Crawford came about, you too may change your tune on the deal.

As Dipoto explained on The Wheelhouse, each member of the Mariners front office was given a blank 25-man roster to fill out towards the end of last season, with a few conditions on how to fill it out.

“It’s blank, fill in the spots. And nothing is impossible – any contract can be traded, all you have to do is you have to sign free agents for viable dollars, you have to put together trades that you think are genuinely possible, and then carry over players that you feel make the most sense for us,” Dipoto said.

And which player that wasn’t already in the Seattle system was found on most of the rosters?

“In virtually all of those, J.P. Crawford was mentioned as a future shortstop for our team,” Dipoto said. “There were numerous different scenarios where we were gonna be acquiring him – sometimes it included Jean Segura and sometimes it was other players – but he was clearly a target player for most of us. To be frank, we talked to the Phillies about more than just Jean Segura. There were other players throughout the offseason that we had discussed with them, and each time we brought up J.P. But the only way we were able to access J.P. were in trades for Jean Segura or at the time Edwin Díaz.”

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One of the front office members who had Crawford on his roster was Jesse Smith, Mariners Director of Analytics. He joined The Hot Stove on 710 ESPN Seattle Tuesday night and shared why Crawford made so much sense for the M’s.

“There’s many things to like about J.P. Crawford. He’s been a consensus industry top prospect for years,” Smith said. “I imagine the reason why a lot of people had him as part of their ideas is because of context. So you have a prospect who is just a consensus really interesting player, and he’s in an organization that is trying to win now (Philadelphia) and he’s hit a few bumps in the road. So that presents an opportunity to maybe go somewhere else where a team will give him a longer leash and really see what we have.”

The 24-year-old Crawford has played 72 MLB games over the past two seasons, and despite his standing as a top prospect, he’s struggled to the tune of a .214 average and .692 OPS. Smith said there’s reason to believe that Crawford is still on track to be a productive Major League player, however.

“With J.P., there’s a lot there. He’s always had a lot of tools. Anytime you have someone who can play the shortstop position defensively – and evaluators have always thought that he can be above-average defensively at short – that’s a fantastic place to start. And he’s also shown the ability to hit,” Smith said. “I know some of the reaction to that trade was not extremely positive right off the bat. His stats don’t exactly jump off the page, but underlying it there’s just a really solid base there.

“You have a young player that’s already producing in his limited Major League sample at something close to a Major League-average shortstop and he’s had sporadic playing time, injury issues, he’s still very young. I think if you were to say we could have J.P. Crawford a year ago, two years ago, the fan base would be jumping for joy, but in the industry and just as fans, we tend to get impatient with players. We say they’re the next great thing and then it doesn’t happen for them the next year so we write them off. If you just look at this guy, not much has changed. From what I saw in his recent track record, there’s really not any huge negatives to suggest that it’s not working out. It’s just been slowed by context, injury, opportunity. He could be a plus everyday shortstop for the forseeable future.”

You can hear the full interview with Smith in this podcast of Tuesday’s episode of The Hot Stove.

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