Brandon Crawford

Brandon Crawford 6-year extension: great news for a key player, nice cost-certainty for Giants, luxury tax hit in 2016

Brandon Crawford Jalynne Crawford Giants World Series parade

In a move that didn’t come as much of a surprise, especially after Buster Olney reported that the Giants would try to lock him up this winter a day earlier, the Giants signed Brandon Crawford to a six-year, $75 million deal. Here are the financial details:

This is fantastic news for Crawford most of all, and Giants fans as well.

You never really know the guys you’re covering, but Crawford is either a smart, witty, down-to-earth player who checks off all the boxes one can think of when wondering whether an athlete is a good person off the field, or he’s a much better actor than he appeared on that commercial when Brandon Belt tossed a rubber snake at him and he screamed.

I’m going to go out on a very sturdy limb and say Brandon Crawford is a Good Dude.

He may never be a .300 hitter, but the Gold Glover/Silver Slugger consistently puts out quality plate appearances and showed outstanding power in 2015 for a shortstop in this era. In the process, he fulfilled the potential outlined for him by Brian Sabean back in February, before Sabean vanished and spent the year watching baseball games in far-off places while letting Bobby Evans handle the media dirty work.

“We really were hoping that Crawford was on his way to an All-Star type season, and they think that he’s really coming into his own,” Sabean said. And he was right. And that was enough for the Giants to sign him through his age-34 season. Crawford got a no-trade clause in his contract, too. Not that it probably matters much — it’s been a loooong time since the Giants dealt a core veteran.

Just for fun: I asked Evans during the Nov. 4 postmortem press conference about Crawford, and here’s how it went.

***

Q: Have you had any talk with Brandon Crawford’s representatives about a possible extension?

Evans: We talked to him last offseason about that, but we have not yet engaged about his arbitration number this year yet.

(Inaudible question from a reporter about Crawford signing a one-year deal in arbitration … I think.)

Evans: The arbitration process really doesn’t pick up until exchanging numbers in January. So it’s hard to say how soon that process will begin. For agents, they have the same schedule we have in the sense that they’ve got to prep themselves for the free agent market. Then they’ve got to be in the free agent market. And then they’ve got to talk about their arbitration-eligible player, hopefully about the time they get all their free agents signed. So it’s a balance of time and focus and I can’t say how quickly the calendar will creep up on us with Crawford, whether it’ll come prior to filing or after filing, and how it’ll get addressed. But he obviously he had a great year. He’s a Giant and we’d like to keep him a Giant.

***

There wasn’t much in what he said that would alert us to the possibility of an extension happening this quickly, but the timing sure seemed right. Crawford has proven that he’s a legit hitter, which was his only possible weakness from a long-term viability standpoint. That’s why the Giants mucked around with Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera in 2011, when Crawford was far and away the best defensive shortstop in their system.

There aren’t many shortstops in their mid-30s these days, and Crawford is pretty big for the position (6’2″ and over 200 lbs), but he’s a quietly competitive guy who’ll stay in shape and aim to prove he can stay at the position for a long time. Maybe not as long as Omar Vizquel, but I’d bet on him staying at short through this extension unless he gets hit with a major injury.

The Giants get some cost-certainty.

Crawford had two arbitration years remaining, so this deal takes him four years past when he would’ve been a free agent, all the way through the 2021 season. What’s interesting when you look at the Giants’ contracts in future years, is only one veteran is signed past 2018. That would be Buster Posey, who is also under contract through ’21. Posey is two months younger than Crawford, by the way.

When compared to other players (let alone shortstops) who hit 20+ home runs at age 28, $15 million per season in the remaining years of his prime isn’t a very high price in this era of Major League Baseball. Giants executives will go to bed tonight feeling pretty good about the deal they announced today.

The one small bit of unfortunate news …

I know I’m going to get the reputation as the guy who harps on the Competitive Balance Tax, but Crawford’s extension takes away some wiggle room when it comes to this winter’s free agent class. The Giants went over MLB’s version of the luxury tax last year, which again sits at $189 million for 2016. This isn’t strictly payroll-based, as I’ve explained before. The CBT is calculated by the average salaries of each player through the life of his deal, including signing bonuses and other incentives. Teams face increased penalties for going over the tax in consecutive years, and Larry Baer made it known that the Giants do not plan on going over $189 million in CBT money in 2016.

Crawford’s arbitration number was projected to be somewhere around $5.7 million. His new CBT figure, if $75 million is indeed the grand total, would equal $12.5 million. Agreeing to a one-year arbitration payment would’ve saved the Giants when it came to CBT calculations, but if Crawford had another year like he did in 2015, he might have become more willing to stick it out until hitting the open market after the 2017 season. The Giants weren’t willing to take that risk, and Crawford gets a nice raise and the job of a lifetime: starting shortstop on a championship team he rooted for as a kid.

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