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The San Francisco Giants will have a decision to make regarding shortstop Brandon Crawford this offseason. Will they continue to roll with him as a starter in 2020?
San Francisco Giants fans will always have a soft spot for Brandon Crawford. His beautiful defensive plays and numerous clutch hits over the years will forever be ingrained in the minds of fans who saw the championship-winning teams of the 2010s.
But father time spares no one in the world of sports. And unfortunately, the Giants may just be finding that out with Crawford.
At 32-years-old this past season, Crawford seemingly hit a brick wall at the plate. He batted a career-low .228, had an OBP of just over .300, and finished with a disastrous OPS+ of just 75.
Only three players in the entire MLB (that qualified for rate stats) finished with worse offensive seasons, that being Orlando Arcia, Yolmer Sanchez, and Mallex Smith. The only difference is that all three of those players are 27 years or younger.
They still have time to get better. Meanwhile, Crawford is on the wrong side of 30.
Crawford will be 33-years-old next season and baseball doesn’t exactly have a lengthy history of aging middle infielders getting better as they grow older. And that’s especially true for those coming off as bad of a season as Crawford had.
Simply put, Crawford is a liability at the plate and while his defense remains solid it’s difficult to argue that he’s worth the $15 million he’s set to be paid next season. Unfortunately, getting rid of him isn’t exactly an ideal option.
It’d be near-impossible to find a taker for his contract without sending over a large sum of money as part of the package. And it would be foolish to just designate him for assignment and eat the money.
Crawford is still a very good defender and actually had a positive WAR last season because of his defense. He does still have some value to the team, obviously not at his current price point, but enough value that just flat out DFA-ing him cannot be justified.
That leaves the Giants with two options. Either roll with him as the starter next season and hope that 2019 was an anomaly and not a sign of things to come or find a suitable player to split time with him and limit his at-bats.
Both seem to be realistic options, but the latter is more viable. It’s likely the Giants would turn to an external option to fill that void but don’t be surprised if the team tries to give Mauricio Dubon more time to develop at his natural position.
Dubon is penciled in as a starter at one of the two middle infield positions next season but where he will be playing is undetermined. Second base seems like the most likely destination for the young infielder but the Giants might see that his future is at shortstop.
Perhaps Dubon could split time with Crawford at shortstop while also playing some second base. This would allow Crawford to receive fewer at-bats while he looks to get his swing back on track.
The Giants would likely have to bring in another middle infielder to play second base or turn to internal options within the organization.
Either way, it’s likely that Crawford will be on the team in some capacity next season — whether as a full-time starter or in a reduced role. And while Giants fans may hold on to warm memories of old, it’s important to remember that the past only serves to limit the future.
Crawford will still have a role next season, but it’s still unclear if that role will be as a full-time starter or in a part-time platoon. But his best days are clearly behind him.