Phillies former prospect J.P. Crawford blossoming in Seattle
The J.P. Crawford trade might haunt the Phillies after all
When the Phillies traded former top prospect J.P. Crawford to the Seattle Mariners, fans knew it was either a blessing or curse that would linger with the team for years.
Crawford, the 16th overall pick in 2013, was dubbed the next big prospect in baseball. He was the heir to Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and was expected to be a perennial Gold Glove talent for the next decade in Philadelphia.
Somewhere along the line, Crawford’s hype in baseball circles began to slip. He went from being a top five prospect in the entire sport to falling off top 100 lists completely, even before he reached the big leagues in 2017 as a 22-year-old.
Crawford would play only 72 games with the Phillies over two seasons and hit .214 in both years. He had a “pencil bat” that wouldn’t hold up for a team appearing to be on the verge of competing once again.
Had Crawford come up a year or two earlier, he would have gotten more shots, but now the team was ready to compete and they couldn’t wait for Crawford to develop.
In a move that cleared the horrendous Carlos Santana contract, the Phillies sent their first baseman and Crawford to Seattle for veteran Jean Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos.
Segura was a two-time All-Star who put up 203 hits in 2016, but he failed to stick at a position or with a team. With a long-term contract that wouldn’t hinder the Phillies cap and the addition of two relievers, the return made sense. Philadelphia also cleared a spot for Rhys Hoskins at first base, opening up room for Andrew McCutchen in left field.
Seattle saw Crawford as a reclamation piece that they could build around over time. He was still very young and had raw talent that many believed in for years.
In 2019 Crawford produced at about the same level he did in Philadelphia with a .226 average in 93 games, once again dealing with injuries.
Now healthy in 2020, Crawford is blossoming into the star shortstop many saw in him. On Saturday he helped turn one of the best all-around double plays you’ll ever see.
At the plate through nine games he leads the league with nine runs scored and two triples while hitting .393 with a 1.086 OPS. Granted, we’re nine games into a messy season and a batting average evens out over time, but Crawford might have finally hit his stride in Seattle, and that’s scary for Phillies fans.
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Philadelphia has failed to produce big time prospects other than Aaron Nola in recent years. Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery remain questions, Maikel Franco and Jorge Alfaro have been shipped out of town, and the future now lies in the hands of Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard.
Crawford won’t be a free agent until 2025, the type of cheap team control the Phillies need as they build the rest of their team with pricey free agents. They pushed the salary cap this year and if they had Crawford instead of Segura they could have added a veteran reliever or another starter.
Segura has been a headache for the Phillies with an inconsistent bat and, at times, poor hustle. He lost weight coming into the 2020 season that many hoped would revitalize him, but with the stop and go start to the season Segura hasn’t had a chance to prove himself.
The Phillies have to pay Segura $14.85 million in each of the next two seasons with a team option worth $17 million in 2023, though they can buy him out for $1 million. At this rate, they’ll happily pay him that to move on.
The other two pieces acquired in the Seattle trade, Nicasio and Pazos, aren’t with the team anymore. Pazos never pitched for the team and Nicasio had a 4.75 ERA in 2019.
There’s still plenty of time before the final “grades” count for the Crawford/Segura trade, but the Phillies might come out of it holding the short end of the stick here.