Last Friday, hours before the Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day matchup with the Minnesota Twins, the Mariners inked shortstop JP Crawford to a 5-year, $51 million contract extension. The first year of the extension kicks in this season, allowing Crawford and the team to avoid arbitration, and the contract will stay in place through the 2026 season.
JP Crawford has been a key cog in the Mariners’ rebuild since the 2019 season, starting at shortstop in just about every game over the past three years, and steadily improving his performance at the place with each passing season. Crawford hit .226 in 2019, .255 in 2020, and .273 in 2021, and posted a career-high 37 doubles last year while hitting leadoff the majority of the season.
The Mariners passed on several marquee free agent shortstops this offseason, including Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, and Trevor Story, due to their firm belief that Crawford is the long-term answer at the position. After winning the A.L. Gold Glove at shortstop in 2020, then finishing as a finalist for the award in 2021, it’s clear that he will be able to handle the pressure defensively over the next several seasons.
As mentioned, Crawford has improved offensively over the last three years, but that area of his game was the primary question mark the Mariners needed to consider before officially offering him an extension. His batting average has gotten better over time, yes, but his OPS and OPS+ drive uncertainty around his offensive value; Crawford’s OPS+ in 2021 was 102, which is just barely above league average.
However, the Mariners were willing to take the gamble that Crawford will continue to improve at the dish, and so far it appears to be a smart call. Through the first three games of this season, Crawford is hitting .375 with a 1.045 OPS, and is knocking on the door to return to the top of the batting order on a new-and-improved Seattle squad.