With the recent signing of Dan Uggla and the return of Marco Scutaro, the San Francisco Giants may have addressed their deficiency at second base, but the struggles of shortstop Brandon Crawford may make the team look at upgrading the other middle infield position prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
Crawford managed to keep his head above water hitting .253 in the first four months of the season but his performance in July has been bad to say the least. Crawford is hitting .173 since the beginning of the month. In addition, Crawford is on pace to strike out 120 times in 2014, which will surpass his previous high total by nearly 30.
The offensive struggles are just one aspect of Crawford’s problems. There are few positions in Major League Baseball where a lack of offensive production is overlooked in favor of good defense and shortstop is one of those positions.
However, Crawford has allowed his struggles at the plate to follow him into the field. He has already made as many errors in 2014 (15) as he did in all of 2013 and his .963 fielding percentage ranks 12th among NL shortstops. Overall, the Giants’ defense ranks 13th in the NL. There is no question his defense is a major liability for the Giants going forward. Basically, Crawford’s offensive struggles can no longer be overlooked if his defense is suspect.
The combination of Crawford’s lack of offensive production and his now growing liability as a defender leaves a major question mark at the shortstop position going forward.
A very intriguing option the Giants front office could pursue is the veteran Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. While Rollins grew up across the bay in Oakland, a trade to San Francisco would be a homecoming of sorts that could be the key to a late career surge for the 35-year-old.
Rollins may be having another down year offensively but it appears as if his time in Philadelphia has run its course and a change of scenery, especially a return home to the Bay Area, may just be the spark Rollins needs to return to his MVP form.
With no timetable for the return of Angel Pagan, the addition of Rollins could provide the Giants the much-needed spark plug at the top of the lineup that has been missing since Pagan’s injury. When Rollins was at his best he was the table setter for the Phillies and his .327 OBP in 2014 is his best since 2011. In addition, his 19 stolen bases ranks sixth in the NL.
While Rollins’ offensive numbers have dipped over the past couple of years, his .982 fielding percentage in 2014 is good enough for fourth in the NL. Not only would Rollins provide the Giants with an insurance policy for a second half without Pagan, but he would also help to improve one of the NL’s worst defenses.
Rollins is currently in the final year of a 3-year deal, with a vesting option for 2015 that hinges on Rollins notching at least 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1,100 PAs in 2013-14, and not being on disabled list at end of this year. With 371 at-bats so far in 2014 and 971 between 2013-14 this would potentially give the Giants the option of benching Rollins down the stretch if he does not produce, in order to avoid the 2015 vesting option.
Rollins has a full no trade clause within his contract so he will ultimately determine his future but a return to home to the Bay Area is definitely one he and the Giants should consider.