Among the Yankees’ tough decisions this offseason is what to do about their shortstop situation. Gleyber Torres had the 2020 season to prove that the position he came up in the minors playing was one he can be effective at for years to come in the bigs. But the Yankees held their breath at times when the ball was hit his way, causing some concern for the future.
GM Brian Cashman has other fish to fry – re-signing DJ LeMahieu and figuring out starter depth is higher on the list – but there is a legitimate question mark at shortstop that might need some change. If the Yankees don’t believe Torres is the long-term solution there, they need to mull over options out there.
Enter Brandon Crawford. A veteran shortstop who has one year left on his contract with the San Francisco Giants worth $15 million who can still play the position well, and more importantly, could be traded for at the right price. At 33 years old, he’s still putting up solid numbers (especially against right-handed pitchers), and is a better defender than Torres.
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But is it worth trading away assets to acquire Crawford? Let’s break down the pros and cons see what the Yankees might do in this case…
1. Crawford’s defense trumps Torres'
Crawford has been manning shortstop for years in MLB and the experience certainly wins over Torres’ first full (if you want to count the 60-game regular season that) season. But even with Torres’ small sample size, his defensive metrics don’t compare to Crawford’s production at the position.
Defensive runs saved is a big teller of how a player truly impacts the defense each season. Torres has been a negative at shortstop since he entered the league, with his worst at -9 in 2020. Crawford, on the other hand, was a +2 in DRS last season and he only posted his first negative in that category in 2019 (-4) for his career.
Now Crawford is obviously getting older, but this is a man who once posted a +22 and +25 in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016. He can still field the position really well, as his range hasn’t been extremely compromised (Range Runs Above Average was 1.3 last year).
2. Another lefty bat in the lineup
The Yankees don’t have much diversity in their lineup when it comes to handedness at the plate. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higashioka – all righties. Brett Gardner (if he returns), Tyler Wade and Mike Tauchman (bench options) are the only relevant lefties at the dish, with Aaron Hicks the lone switch hitter.
Crawford will offer a left-handed bat that does well against right-handed pitching, which is usually a plus at Yankee Stadium with the short porch in right field. He slashed .262/.321/.504 with eight homers and 28 RBI over 141 at-bats against right-handers last season.
Mixing up the look of the lineup helps, but Crawford’s production against righties there would be the main asset there.
3. World Series Pedigree
This is a player with two World Series rings (2012, 2014) who is probably itching to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016. The Yankees are looking for someone that can produce in October, and though a .236 career postseason average is on his stat line, Crawford has a .313 OBP with 17 RBI as well. And the old saying, “Defense wins championships” applies here, too.
Also of note: If Gardner doesn’t return, Crawford can be viewed as that veteran leader in the locker room among others. It won’t be as powerful as the longest tenured Yankee being there, but he still has years of being a foundational piece to a franchise that liked his locker room presence.
1. Worth the trade pieces?
We don’t need to point out Crawford’s age to show that he is on the latter half of his playing career. So what would the Giants want in return for him?
Cashman has always been conservative and one to not overpay when it comes to trades. But if he really wants to land Crawford, the Giants could take advantage. The switch of Torres to second base would mean LeMahieu, who the Yankees should be trying real hard to re-sign, needs a new position. First would be the obvious answer but Voit is the incumbent there and has proved his worth. Then, there’s Urshela making web gems by the game at third base.
In turn, Voit or Urshela would be the odd man out here. Is that smart given their young age and success in pinstripes? Might not be. Also, Crawford is a free agent after the season. What happens if the Yankees can’t – or don’t want to – bring him back. They just traded away quality assets to acquire him.
2. Price tag is too high
The Yankees are trying to conserve money this offseason it seems after the coronavirus pandemic hit them harder than most teams. Staying under the luxury tax might really be Cashman’s true priority heading into 2021 with the season’s details and outlook uncertain.
So at $15 million this season, Crawford’s remaining year on his deal might be too much to handle for the Bombers.