Now is the Time to Sign Brandon Crawford Long-Term


Free agency is already under way, and the flame under the hot stove is beginning to crank up. The San Francisco Giants figure to be quite busy in the coming months, but one of their smartest moves could be signing their shortstop Brandon Crawford to a long-term deal now.

Crawford debuted for the Giants in 2011, and was considered a defensive specialist. His glove was always his calling card, and when he struggled hitting, his defense was more than enough to make up for it. He was considered one of those players whose defense was so good that any offense the team could get out of him would be considered a bonus.

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The player Crawford is now is lightyears better than the player he was when he was first called up. Over the past couple of seasons, his bat has begun to catch up to his glove, and 2015 was his biggest stride yet. Last season, Crawford set career-highs in a laundry list of categories, including average (.256), home runs (21, which led the team), doubles (33), runs batted in (84), runs scored (65), hits (130), and slugging percentage (.462).

It was also his best season defensively, as he led all National League players in SABR’s Defensive Index, at a 15.4 rating. His SDI was only behind Tampa Bay Rays’ center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, whose 29.2 ran away from everyone else in baseball like he was chasing a flyball deep in the gap. He won the Gold Glove award at shortstop, beating out perennial winner Andrelton Simmons from the Atlanta Braves. His offensive outburst figures to put him at the forefront for the National League Silver Slugger as well.

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Now with his best season behind him, Crawford will be arbitration eligible for the second time in his career, and he figures to get a nice little pay raise over the $3.175 million he earned in 2015. Instead of having the two sides go to arbitration, the Giants might be well-served signing Crawford to a long-term deal.

By signing Crawford now, the Giants will buy out his remaining arbitration years, as well as his first few years of free agency, eliminating the risk of losing him to a higher bidder on the open market.

As Crawford continues to develop, he will likely get a tidy sum on the open market, as shortstops with his combination of offensive and defensive prowess are not easy to find. Crawford is on the cusp of 29 years old right now, and when he hits free agency for the first time after the 2017 season, he’ll just be turning 31 years old, and in the middle of what is normally considered his “prime years”.

If the Giants do buy out Crawford’s arbitration years and the first years of his free agency, his contract could turn out to be extremely team-friendly, if his upward trajectory continues as it has. In comparison, Madison Bumgarner was signed to a long-term deal before the 2012 season, which bought out all of his arbitration years, as well as his first season of free agency. Included in the deal are two team options for the 2018 (that can become guaranteed) and 2019 seasons worth $12 million, which looks like a downright steal, considering how well Bumgarner has developed in recent seasons.

Next: Brandon Crawford Wins Gold Glove

There’s always a risk in signing players. There will be risk for the Giants if they sign anyone on the open market, or if they sign Crawford to a deal now. The chance for regression is always there, but Crawford has improved tenfold over the past five years. The risk definitely seems worth the reward in this case.