Late Tuesday night, the SF Giants upended their long-standing trend of being rejected by major free agents and trade targets by signing Carlos Correa to a whopping 13-year, $350-million contract.
Correa, who will play most of the 2023 season at 28 years old, is expected to anchor the Giants' offense from the middle of the order and the defense from probably the most-important spot that doesn't squat behind the plate: shortstop.
The 2021 American League Gold Glove winner at short, Correa is widely regarded as a very good defender. Just one problem - the Giants already have a very good defender at the position, someone who has taken home four Gold Gloves himself (including the 2021 National League award).
That, of course, is Brandon Crawford.
Crawford has been with the Giants organization since being selected in the 4th round in 2008 out of UCLA (San Francisco's first-rounder that year was Buster Posey - quite the draft). After a few years in the minor leagues, he got the call in the second half of 2011 to take over the shortstop position with the Orange and Black and hasn't relinquished his hold.
A beacon of health throughout most of his career, Crawford appeared in over 140 games every year from 2012 through 2019, then played in 54 of 60 contests in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The last two years he has dealt with injuries, playing 138 in 2021 and then just 118 in 2022.
On the strength of his bounce-back 2021 season (.298/.373/.522 slash line and the Gold Glove), Crawford was given a two-year extension through 2023. If he had the same type of season in 2022, we likely wouldn't be discussing a huge deal for a shortstop - or at least whether Crawford would get bumped off the position.
But he hit just .231 with a .652 OPS and had his worst year defensively because of injuries (though he looked better when healthy toward the end of the season), so the team realized they needed a replacement.
A lot of the discussion early in the offseason revolved around where a Giants free agent shortstop signee might play while Crawford played out his contract; yes, even with the talent at the position on the open market most figured he would run out to short every game as he has for his entire MLB career. The theories proffered were that Trea Turner could play second base, or Xander Bogaerts would man the hot corner.
But Correa is a better defender than all of them. Whether he is better than Crawford was at his peak is debatable, but with youth on his side Correa is more likely to be the better defender at the tough position.
Crawford gives humorous comment about switching positions
The Giants have already decided the Correa will be the main shortstop in 2023. Crawford told Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic (subscription required) that he will be "working his hardest" to succeed wherever the Giants have him play...and joked he might even be able to get on the mound.
Crawford still has a good arm, and he has made plenty of quick-reaction plays at short, so we'll peg him for third base in a platoon where he starts against right-handers. Another left-handed hitter, Lamonte Wade Jr, can play first base, so we'll assume he goes there against righties as well. Wilmer Flores hits right-handed, so he might spell Crawford when a lefty is on the hill, and J.D. Davis will likely get a shot at both corner-infield spots to see if he can prove his 2022 success in San Francisco was not a fluke. Finally, expect Thairo Estrada to take most of the starts at second base after batting .260 with 14 homers in 2022.
And, seeing as how Correa has missed chunks of time with injuries over his career, Crawford might still get a good chunk of time at his old spot.