Brandon Crawford sought Giants return, wasn't 'wanted back' in new role – NBC Sports Bay Area and California

Longtime Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford wanted to return to the organization he called for 13 seasons for the 2024 MLB season, but it appears the feeling wasn't entirely mutual.

After signing a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, Crawford spoke out Exclusively with The Athletic's Andrew Baggarley on his decision to sign with St. Louis and why continuing his career with a team other than the Giants wasn't his preferred outcome.

“The bottom line is I wasn't wanted back by the only person whose opinion I care about,” Crawford told The Athletic, referring to Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. “So I went with a team that gave me a major league contract. The Cardinals have a long history and tradition. I have admired and respected the way the Cardinals have played throughout my career and the way the organization is run.”

“But the bottom line is I wanted to get back to the Giants. And obviously that was the perfect situation for me.”

Crawford told The Athletic that he discussed a return to the Giants with Zaidi in a face-to-face meeting during MLB general managers' meetings in November in Scottsdale, Ariz. He made it clear that he was not seeking a day-to-day role and was willing to continue mentoring San Francisco's young players as Marco Luciano, Casey Schmidt and Tyler Fitzgerald.

“I had no expectations for playing time,” Crawford told The Athletic. “Just help out and be a veteran mentor to Luciano, Casey Schmidt, (Tyler) Fitzgerald, and continue to be that guy for Thairo (Estrada), and whoever else I can help in that capacity. That's what I came to do.”

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Zaidi's lukewarm reception to Crawford Stadium initially led the veteran to question whether the decision was personal, but he told The Athletic he was still hopeful of a reunion later in the offseason when the Giants didn't add any depth at shortstop.

After the Cardinals made the contract offer, Crawford's agent, Joel Wolfe, reached out to Zaidi one last time about a potential contract for his client.

“I was told I could get the last spot on the roster like anyone else as a non-roster invitee,” Crawford explained to The Athletic. “That was the nail in the coffin.”

Al-Zaidi, in a phone conversation with The Athletic, backed away from suggesting that personal animosity may have played a role in the Giants' decision to part ways.

“He was one of our most popular and important players and we negotiated a two-year extension with him (after the 2021 season) which everyone was really happy about,” Al-Zaidi told The Athletic. “So any idea that there was concern about coexistence doesn't square with the fact that we've been here for the last five seasons and had some really great moments.

“He has been an important member of this team and a real leader at the club as well.”

Al-Zaidi emphasized Crawford's desire to play in a reduced, versatile role, but explained how the team wanted its young players to have the freedom to experience the highs and lows of an MLB season without having a franchise icon in Crawford looming over their shoulders on the bench. .

Crawford explained to The Athletic that he understands where Zaidi is coming from, but shared that he does not want to take on a day-to-day role, even if there are difficulties in the future like Luciano.

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“With the whole ‘being over Luciano’s shoulder’ thing, I feel like I could have made it clear publicly that that wasn’t the case,” Crawford shared. “I don't even want to play every day because physically I'm not sure I can do it anymore with the amount of hurt I've been in the last couple of years. Moving to a role player makes sense. So I feel like I could have navigated around that.”

Crawford wanted to return to the Giants and was willing to embrace a new role, even after his previous two seasons with the team that included a frustrating lack of communication with former manager Gabe Kapler's staff.

“A lot of it was injuries and not playing well, but some of it was…lack of communication, not playing for three days in a row without someone saying a word to me about it,” Crawford told The Athletic. “It wasn't a very fun environment. I liked the players. We had a good club for the most part. But the way it went wasn't very fun.

He added: “Looking at my career in general, I would have been fine if I hadn't received any offers. But at the same time, it hasn't been what I envisioned over the last couple of years. I just envisioned having more fun. That played a role (in wanting to… Continue playing.”

A handful of Giants veterans, including starting pitcher Logan Webb, expressed their appreciation for the new culture and approach to the game that manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff brought to San Francisco.

Unfortunately for Crawford, he won't be able to experience those changes, but he will likely look forward to facing his former team this season as a member of the Cardinals.

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