Brewers: Could 1B C.J. Cron Be a Free Agent Target?

C.J. Cron, Detroit Tigers Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
C.J. Cron, Detroit Tigers Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

The veteran first baseman missed most of the 2020 season due to injury and could be a prime bounce-back candidate for the Brewers to sign.

Last offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers signed a number of players in the offseason gambling on them having bounce-back seasons in 2020. The results of those gambles were mixed, though they mostly trended toward misses.

One of those gambles that didn’t miss was Jedd Gyorko. The Brewers signed him hoping that he would return to form after an injury-plagued 2019 season and he went on to be one of the best, if not the best, offensive players on the Brewers in 2020.

The Brewers elected not to pick up Gyorko’s contract option this offseason, making him a free agent, but could always bring him back for another go round in 2021. If they don’t, there’s another free agent out there in a similar situation to Gyorko last offseason who could be a good fit in Milwaukee.

C.J. Cron signed a 1-year, $6.1MM contract with the Detroit Tigers last offseason to man first base while some of their younger talent continued to develop. Unfortunately, he would only make it 13 games before a knee injury suffered while fielding a ground ball would end up taking away the rest of his season.

Cron is still just 30 years old and has a solid offensive history prior to 2020. Could the Brewers possibly get him at a lower price as he looks to come back from injury in 2021?

If the Brewers can get C.J. Cron at the right price, he could be a good candidate to fill a position of need for Milwaukee.

Not only do the Brewers have a need to bolster both of their corner infield spots, they could also use an injection of power at both positions. That being the case, Cron would be a good fit in the Milwaukee lineup in addressing both of those needs.

Cron had hit for double digit home runs in every season prior to 2020, eventually slugging his way to a combined 55 homers over 2018 and 2019. Even as he started a bit slow last season, seven of his eight hits in 2020 went for extra bases (three doubles, four homers).

He has done this in part by increasing his barrel percentage in every season since 2016. Cron’s barrel % of 12.2% in 2018 ranked in the top 10th percentile in the league while his 15% rate in 2019 placed him in the top 5th percentile that season.

Further helping his case, Cron has had a positive bWAR in every season except his rookie 2014 season and had a bWAR over 1.0 for four straight years from 2016 to 2019. He has also had an OPS+ over 100 in every season except 2017 in which it fell just short at 98.

Should the Brewers attempt to sign Cron, the right-hander could form a perfect platoon at first with lefty Daniel Vogelbach, assuming the latter isn’t non-tendered this week. If the NL brings back the designated hitter, the fit would be even better.

Like many possible free agent signings, this one comes down to the money. Some thought Cron was a potential target for the Brewers last offseason, but his $6.1MM contract priced him out of the Brewers’ range. Should last year’s injury and a slow free agent market drive his price down, it could put him back on Milwaukee’s radar.

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Free agency has gotten off to a sluggish start this offseason, to say the least. Once it picks up, keep an eye out for Cron’s name.