Do Mariners need to move J.P. Crawford from SS, go after All-Stars?
After winning a Gold Glove in 2020, Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford took a big step forward as a complete ballplayer in 2021, slashing .273/.338/.376 while posting a 3.8 WAR.
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That resulted in Crawford earning a five-year contract and the organization publicly backing him as the franchise shortstop despite there being a number of All-Stars at the position in free agency.
Crawford started hot for the Mariners in 2022, but his overall offensive numbers have dipped. He’s hitting just .224 in August, and for the year he now owns a .258/.338/.354 slash line for a .692 OPS and 107 wRC+.
Jason Churchill of ProspectInsider.com joined Bump and Stacy on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Monday and discussed Crawford and the future of the Mariners at shortstop. That’s especially notable because, like last offseason, there are a number of All-Star shortstops set to test free agency.
“J.P. Crawford is just not good enough to say ‘hey, we don’t need Xander Bogaerts,’ because… when you look at what’s available this offseason to improve that offense, to improve that roster and that lineup, the free agent shortstop (class) is the clearest path to get there,” Churchill said.
While Crawford may have just signed a new contract, Churchill says the 27 year old hasn’t shown enough to cause the Mariners do not go after some of the big names set to hit free agency.
“He hasn’t hit enough. He hasn’t earned the right to kind of stagnate the Mariners’ build here,” Churchill said. “And that means if you have to move him to second base to lure a Trea Turner, a Dansby Swanson, a Carlos Correa, a Xander Bogearts, you absolutely do it.”
When the Mariners approached free agency last offseason, they did so while making it clear that Crawford would remain at shortstop. Churchill thinks that was a mistake, and one Seattle can’t repeat this offseason.
“I understand why they did it last year, I just don’t think they can do it again. This team is ready to win,” he said. “You don’t shoot yourself in the foot in terms of player acquisition for impact players like that. We’re talking about All-Stars, borderline superstars in (Trea) Turner and (Carlos) Correa and Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, (who) is an All-Star. You can’t basically just tell them ‘we’re not interested in you,’ because that’s ultimately what you’re doing and it hurt them this past offseason with guys like (Trevor) Story and Correa. You just can’t do it again. This team is ready to win and they need to start acting like it.”
Churchill’s comments prompted both Bump and Stacy as well as The Mike Salk Show to discuss the Mariners, Crawford and the shortstop position on Tuesday.
Mike Salk’s reaction
“I don’t disagree with that, to be honest with you,” Mike Salk said Tuesday morning of the possibility of moving Crawford off shortstop so the Mariners can acquire an All-Star middle infielder. “And that may be easier to do this year than last year, right?”
Last season and this most recent offseason, Salk said, Crawford was establishing himself as a leader on the Mariners. Now, Crawford has regressed a bit overall, though Salk thinks he’s playing hurt.
“But now he’s gotten paid. He got his shortstop money. I understand why he wouldn’t have wanted to move before, but do you have the opportunity now to bring in one of those great players? There’s only so many spots for you to bring in great players,” Salk said. “… If one of those spots is the middle infield and you have the chance to add a Bogaerts or a Dansby Swanson? I mean, sorry, J.P.”
Salk thinks choosing to add one of those players would mean the Mariners would need to have a “very serious” conversation with Crawford “handled delicately.”
“And it’s not because you don’t love him, but he’s gotten paid. He wants to win. There are not second baseman out there at that same level of offensive value as Bogaerts and Swanson and some of those guys that (Churchill) mentioned. So, what’s the best way to make your team better? Well, that may be a tough conversation they have to have,” Salk said. “And if he’s really a great leader … he’ll think about the best way to make his team better, because that’s what great leaders do. They care about winning more than their personal achievement.”
Bump and Stacy’s reaction
Michael Bumpus said adding a new shortstop and moving Crawford to second base could be tricky since he’s a leader and “a pillar in the organization.”
“How would he feel about making that move to second base? What does that do for his mental (approach)? What does it do for the identity of this ballclub?” Bumpus said. “Now, if it makes the team better, I’m all for it. You want to get better, you want to have a team that you feel like can go out there and win every single day. But then I also think J.P. as a person, as a human being, where does he stand in the leadership and the identity of this baseball team? And I think he plays a big role in this. So if it’s going to shake things up, there’s a different conversation that needs to be had. But you should always look to get better.”
Stacy Rost thinks that stressing how important that shake-up could be for the Mariners is key.
“If you were to go to J.P. and say, ‘Look, you may not be playing the position that you want, but if we are objectively trying to make this team better, don’t you want to know that we’re spending money?'”
Ultimately, Rost thinks Crawford would be OK with that move if it meant adding a top talent to the mix.
“I know, it means changing. I know it means moving stuff around. But if your team is trying to add superstars and add talent, I feel like it hurts your own team to say, ‘Nope, I’m the best, you gave me this, so I’ve got to keep this role.’ I don’t think that’s what J.P. is doing, I’m just saying that the argument I see some folks making is like, ‘Well, you don’t want to hurt J.P.’s feelings.’ Yeah, well, what if J.P. is going to be fine with the idea of adding premier free agents?”
Added Bumpus, “He should be OK with it because he sees where this team is headed … So if you are looking bigger picture, then you put your ego aside and you do what’s best for the team. And I think J.P. would eventually get there. But to think that there’s going to be no type of feelings involved in this movement from shortstop to second if that were to happen isn’t realistic.”
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