Crawford sought Giants return, claims he was ‘not wanted back' in new role

Crawford sought Giants return, claims he was ‘not wanted back' in new role originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Longtime Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford wanted to return to the organization he called home for 13 seasons for the 2024 MLB season, but it appears the feeling wasn't exactly mutual.

After signing a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, Crawford spoke exclusively with The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly about his decision to sign with St. Louis and why continuing his career with a team other than the Giants wasn't his preferred outcome.

“The bottom line is I was not wanted back by the one person whose (opinion) matters,” Crawford told The Athletic, referring to Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. “So I went with a team that gave me a major-league contract. The Cardinals have a long history and tradition. I’ve admired and respected the way the Cardinals have played throughout my career and the way the organization has been run.

“But the bottom line is I wanted to come back to the Giants. That was obviously the ideal situation for me.”

Crawford told The Athletic that he discussed a return to the Giants with Zaidi in a face-to-face meeting during November's MLB General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., and made it clear that he was not seeking an everyday role and was willing to continue mentoring San Francisco's young infielders like Marco Luciano, Casey Schmitt and Tyler Fitzgerald.

“I had no playing time expectations,” Crawford shared with The Athletic. “Just help out and be a veteran mentor type for Luciano, Casey Schmitt, (Tyler) Fitzgerald, continue being that guy for Thairo (Estrada), whoever else I could help out in that capacity. That’s what I came to him with.”

Zaidi's lukewarm reception to Crawford's pitch initially led the veteran shortstop to wonder if the decision was personal, but he told The Athletic he still held out hope of a reunion later in the offseason when the Giants didn't add any shortstop depth.

After the Cardinals made their contract offer, Crawford's agent, Joel Wolfe, reached out to Zaidi one last time about a potential contract for his client.

“I was told I could earn the last spot on the roster like anyone else could as a non-roster invitee,” Crawford explained to The Athletic. “That was the nail in the coffin.”

Zaidi, in a phone conversation with The Athletic, pushed back on the implication that personal animosity might have played a role in the Giants' decision to part ways.

“He’s been one of our most popular and important players and we negotiated a two-year extension with him (after his banner 2021 season) which everyone was really happy with,” Zaidi told The Athletic. “So any notion there was a concern about coexistence just doesn’t match the reality that we’ve both been here for the last five seasons and we’ve had some really great moments.

"He’s been an important member of this team and a real leader in the clubhouse as well.”

Zaidi confirmed Crawford's willingness to play in a reduced, versatile role, but explained how the team wanted their young infielders to have the freedom to experience the highs and lows of an MLB season without having a franchise icon in Crawford looming over their shoulders on the bench.

Crawford explained to The Athletic that he understood where Zaidi was coming from, but shared he didn't want an everyday role, even if prospects like Luciano struggled.

“With the whole ‘Being over Luciano’s shoulder’ thing, I feel I could have made it very publicly apparent that wasn’t the case,” Crawford shared. “I don’t even want to be playing every day because physically I’m not sure I could do that anymore with how much I’ve been hurt the last couple years. To transition to a role player makes sense. So I feel I could have navigated around that.”

Crawford wanted to return to the Giants and was willing to embrace a new role, even after his previous two seasons with the team which included a frustrating lack of communication with previous manager Gabe Kapler's staff.

“A lot of it was because of injuries and not playing well, but some of it was … the lack of communication, not playing for three straight days without a single word spoken to me about it,” Crawford told The Athletic. “It just wasn’t a very fun environment. I loved the players. We had a good clubhouse for the most part. But the way it went down wasn’t very fun.

“Thinking about my career in general, I would have been fine had I not gotten any offers. But at the same time, it wasn’t how I pictured the last couple years going. I just pictured having a little more fun. So that played a part (in wanting to keep playing).”

A handful of Giants veterans, including starting pitcher Logan Webb, have appreciated the new culture and approach to the game that manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff have brought to San Francisco.

Unfortunately for Crawford, he will not get to experience those changes, but he likely will look forward to facing his former team this season as a member of the Cardinals.

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