Seattle's Mariners may have been excluded from postseason just a day before the regular season's end, but 2023 was still remarkable in many aspects. Key standouts like Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo, and Jarred Kelenic showed their potential.
Yet, the spotlight was predominantly on J.P. Crawford, the team's established shortstop. There was a lot of buzz before the 2023 season about Seattle potentially bringing in a big-name shortstop from the free agent pool, which boasted talents like Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts.
Many, including MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald, felt the Mariners should jump in, especially after their deal with Adam Frazier didn't yield expected returns and Crawford's inconsistent 2022 season.
Crawford's 2022 Performance Dips
Despite a phenomenal start in 2022, Crawford struggled later that season.
His stats displayed a severe drop, managing only two home runs in his last 117 games and showing troubling power numbers. Furthermore, his defense metrics also faltered, which amplified the calls for Mariners to find a new franchise shortstop.
Jerry Dipoto, the president of baseball operations, surprised many when he expressed his desire to acquire a second baseman instead of focusing on the free agent shortstops. This culminated in a trade with Milwaukee to bring in Kolten Wong to play alongside Crawford.
The decision raised eyebrows, especially after Wong's poor performance, which resulted in him being designated for assignment. However, the story for Crawford took a significant turn in 2023. Although his defense remained a concern, his offensive stats skyrocketed.
Notably, his walk rate soared, placing him among the ranks of the esteemed players like Juan Soto, Kyle Schwarber, and Shohei Ohtani. Moreover, his improved strikeout rate and amplified power numbers highlighted his substantial growth over the season.
Crawford's 2023 performance, marked by a .266/.380/.438 slash line and a significant jump in his wRC+, solidified him as one of the top offensive shortstops. His progression from 2022 to 2023 was nothing short of commendable.
Heading into 2024, while the Mariners might contemplate reinforcing their keystone, one thing's for sure: J.P. Crawford’s revival provides a robust pillar in the middle infield as the Mariners aim for postseason glory once more.