Crawford happy to join Cardinals after signing one-year deal

3-time All-Star shortstop in camp, set to provide depth behind top prospect Winn

February 27th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- Brought in to provide on-field support and off-field wisdom to 21-year-old rookie Masyn Winn, veteran shortstop has already given the projected Opening Day starter a jolt -- even if he did it unknowingly earlier in the week.

Winn, the top prospect in the Cardinals system per MLB Pipeline, was told on Sunday morning that the club intended to sign the 37-year-old Crawford as insurance in case the rookie struggled offensively or suffered an injury somewhere along the way. While being cordial about the addition of the four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star, Winn also took the news as a bit of challenge. Later that day, he went out and went 3-for-3 with a double, a stolen base and a defensive gem in his Grapefruit League debut.

Already, Crawford seems to be paying dividends for the Cardinals.

“They let me know right before my first game and I had a decent game,” Winn recalled matter-of-factly before heating up, so to speak. “So that definitely lit a fire under my [butt]. I probably needed it, but it’s going to be great to have [Crawford] around.”

Crawford officially became a member of the Cardinals on Tuesday after passing a physical. The veteran agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal, a source told’s Mark Feinsand. He will be coming into a situation where he is expected to play only sparingly behind Winn, while also providing leadership to a clubhouse that sorely missed it last season.

“I know they have Masyn Winn, who is a young prospect shortstop and it’s supposed to be his job,” Crawford said after his signing became official on Tuesday. “I'm here to help him out any way I can and obviously help the team any way I can, also. That’s what was appealing.”

Crawford previously spent his entire 13-year career with the Giants, where he was a Silver Slugger winner in 2015. A career .250 hitter, Crawford batted just .194 with a .273 on-base percentage in 2023 in an injury-marred season in which he played just 94 games.

After a short workout where he took ground balls at the Cardinals facility on Tuesday, Crawford said he didn’t want his career to end on such a sour note and he wants to prove that he still has plenty left to offer.

“My kids were probably the biggest motivating factor, but [my 2023 frustration] was another one -- coming back after a tough year injury-wise and on the field,” Crawford admitted. “I’m coming back to be as healthy as I can and contribute.”

Added Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, in reference to his team getting a motivated Crawford: “He was playing through quite a bit last year. We can look at his numbers and go, ‘Wait, a second,’ but the reality is this is a competitor who is never going to give in, wants to be out there every day and who was playing through some real pain. I think we’re going to get a much better version of him.”

The uncertainty surrounding Tommy Edman’s surgically repaired right wrist and his availability for Opening Day also played a major role in the Cardinals’ pursuit of Crawford. Edman is the projected starter in center field, but he was also the club’s desired backup to Winn at shortstop. Wrist surgery in October complicated that, especially with Marmol saying that it will be multiple weeks before Edman will be ready to hit in a Grapefruit League game.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak wanted to make one thing clear during his session with the media on Tuesday: Winn is still the team’s top option at shortstop and the addition of Crawford does nothing to change that.

“Let’s be very clear, though: This is Masyn’s job,” Mozeliak said. “We brought in Brandon to give us that protection should something happen. He understands that role and we think he’ll be a nice addition to our team.”

Crawford, who has played all but one inning in his career at shortstop, said he is open to moving around the diamond if it means more playing time for him. The shortstop was an All-Star as recently as 2021 when he hit .298 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs. In addition to winning his fourth Gold Glove that season, Crawford also finished fourth in NL MVP Award voting.

After playing only for the Giants for 13 seasons, Crawford said he paused briefly and reflected after tugging on a Cardinals T-shirt for the first time on Tuesday.

“I did put this on and look in the mirror and it was a little different,” he admitted. “But I'm looking forward to it and I’m excited.”