Minnesota Twins acquire former Rays first baseman C.J. Cron
By Matt Smith
The Minnesota Twins picked up a first baseman Monday afternoon, claiming 28-year old C.J. Cron off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Minnesota Twins have their first new face for 2019: 28-year old first baseman C.J. Cron. In a surprising move, Cron was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays last week. Coming off of a solid season where he hit .253/.323/.493 with 28 doubles, and 30 home runs, MLB Trade Rumors projected Cron to earn $5.2 million through his second year of arbitration.
With only Tyler Austin as a realistic option for first base to start 2019 (prospect Brent Rooker is getting close to the majors but likely needs a few more months in the minors), the Minnesota Twins front office jumped at the opportunity to add a second choice at the position. Cron isn’t the ideal platoon partner for Austin, as both have hit left handed pitchers significantly better than right handed pitchers, but while he’s far from a superstar, players of Cron’s caliber rarely appear on waivers, so the front office likely jumped at the opportunity despite the lack of a good platoon fit.
Cron entered the MLB in 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels. Averaging just under 110 games per year since then, he’s posted a career .260/.311/.461 triple slash line. He hit 11 home runs in his rookie season, then went three straight seasons with 16 home runs before belting 30 in 2018, his first and only year with the Rays. Cron’s upside is limited, in part due to a poor career walk rate around 6% in the past two seasons, compared to a strikeout rate of about 25% over that span.
2018 was a career best for Cron, as he set season high marks in games played, hits, doubles, home runs, runs scored, RBI, and slugging percentage. Logan Morrison‘s 2018 season provides a reminder to Minnesota Twins fans to never set expectations too high, but Cron seems like a safer bet as his career numbers have been pretty consistent year to year. His 30 home runs in 2018 was by far a career high and it’s probably optimistic to expect him to reach that mark again in 2019, but Cron should be good for at least 15 to 20.
It will be interesting to see how the Minnesota Twins balance the usage of Cron and Austin. While Cron is more established in the majors and has a higher floor than Austin, Austin is 2 years younger and likely has a higher potential, albeit a wider range of possible outcomes as well. Both have hit lefties better than righties in their careers so a platoon pairing doesn’t seem ideal. Yet, Cron’s lefty/righty splits aren’t drastic, and Austin has yet to play more than 70 MLB games in a season, so the Twins could choose to use both first basemen instead of one or the other depending on the pitcher. For now, there’s plenty of space in the lineup for both, with slots open at both first base and designated hitter.