Should The Brewers Target C.J. Cron In Free Agency?
By Tyler Koerth
The Milwaukee Brewers have a hole to fill at first base. Former fan-favorite Jesus Aguilar was traded during the 2019 season and Eric Thames had his club option declined by the Brewers early in November. Is C.J. Cron the guy to fill the hole?
A former 1st round draft pick by the Angels in 2011, Cron carved a path to the big leagues by flashing lots of power in the minors. He made his MLB debut in 2014 but was hidden behind Albert Pujols most of that season.
In 2015 the Angels played him a lot more, primarily as the designated hitter. Early in his career he displayed good power numbers hitting exactly 16 home runs in 2015, 2016, and 2017 in limited opportunities.
Upon the start of the 2018 season he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. In Tampa he set new career highs in games played (140), home runs (30), and RBI’s (74). Despite the offensive success, he was designated for assignment that offseason and claimed by the Twins. In 2019, he battled a thumb injury that kept him on the injured list most of July, but still managed a 25 home run and 78 RBI season.
How can he help?
At this point in his career, Cron would be a power threat in the lineup. His career .258 batting average is respectable but his plate discipline is rather disappointing. His 2019 walk percentage was a career high at 7%, while is career average is 5.5%. That being said, he is a great contact hitter with a career 22% strikeout rate. Defensively, Cron struggled his first four years at first base but 2018 and 2019 have been above-average.
What Might a Contract Look Like?
With the Rays, Cron made $2.3 mil in arbitration. In 2019 he agreed agreed on $4.8 mil with the Twins. With one more season left before Cron is out of the arbitration window, a 1 year deal in the $4-$6 mil range sounds about right for him.
Should the Brewers Target Cron?
David Stearns indicated publicly after the trade for C Omar Narvaez that he has had “ongoing discussions with Ryan Braun about defensive versatility“. He also did not rule out Narvaez playing first base as well.
With that being said, signing C.J. Cron does make some sense. Cron would most likely assume the everyday starter role with Braun and Narvaez potentially filling in on occasion. Cron’s inability to draw walks and still developing defense certainly hurts his case, but his power threat, overall production, and relatively inexpensive cost is enticing.
Signing Cron would leave the door open for Stearns to acquire top end talent at other positions while simultaneously having offensive peace of mind at first base.
In a free agent market where there are few everyday starting options available at first base, Cron might be the best available guy out there along with Eric Thames.