Happy Opening Day, friends. While all of you were sleeping fitfully in anticipation, Jerry Dipoto was hard at work last night, inking J.P. Crawford to a major contract extension.
Shortstop J.P. Crawford and the Seattle Mariners are in agreement on a five-year, $51 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Deal will start this year and buys out two free agent seasons. Crawford, 27, is an elite defender whose bat has steadily improved.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 8, 2022
In the great Twitter breaking news wars, Jeff Passan won the first round, and Ken Rosenthal won the second:
J.P. Crawford breakdown in new five-year, $51 contract with Mariners, per source:— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 8, 2022
$5M signing bonus
2023-25: $10M each year
First with news: @JeffPassan.
First off, congrats to J.P.! You can read all about him in Isabelle’s excellent 40 in 25 piece from a few weeks ago, but we’re only a few years removed from Crawford being a post-hype prospect with significant questions about whether he could hit major league pitching. The 27 year old scuffled with the Phillies and even struggled with the bat during his first two seasons as a Mariner, posting wRC+ of 87 and 95, respectively.
But there were undeniably signs of improvement, cutting his strikeout rate from 26.8% in his sophomore campaign to 21.0% in his first season with the Mariners and 16.8% in 2020. And he flashed the leather throughout, including one of the most spectacular throws I’ve ever seen live:
In 2021, Crawford finally hit his stride. He bumped his batting average up to .273 while also showing some pop, giving him an above-average wRC+ for the first time in his career. That success is what the Mariners are betting on in this contract, which buys out three years of arbitration (With three years and 163 days of service time, Crawford was first eligible for arbitration last year and would have hit free agency in 2025, since the Mariners kept him down in AAA for just long enough in 2019.)
The contract is front-loaded, so instead of the $4.85m deal that the two sides had agreed on in arbitration, Crawford will make $10m this season ($5m salary and a $5m signing bonus — Happy Opening Day indeed!). I imagine his arbitration figure would likely have been something around $7-9m each of the next two years, so the Mariners are likely spending a bit more in 2023 and 2024 to keep him around in ‘25 and ‘26. They’re also using some of the money they had earmarked for 2022 free agents in this deal.
Per Jon Heyman, it seems that Crawford also negotiated a full no-trade clause this year:
JP Crawford $51M, 5-year Mariners extension contains no option years, full no-trade in 1st year, 5 team protection after that with $1M bonus with each trade. Pay is $10M first 4 years, $11M last year. 1st year is $5M signing bonus and $5M salary @JeffPassan 1st— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 8, 2022
With news of the Crawford extension, one has to wonder if we’ll get any other late-breaking extension news before first pitch this afternoon. Mitch Haniger, Logan Gilbert, and Julio Rodríguez are some of the most obvious candidates, but the Evan White news surprised us all a few years ago, and perhaps Jerry has a rabbit up his sleeve.
Regardless, this deal preserves financial flexibility down the road (which, it should be noted, does not earn you extra wins in the standings) and gives J.P. significant security. It seems that the Mariners have, indeed, found their shortstop of the future and the present.