The Milwaukee Brewers still have a need at first base and C.J. Cron is one of the better options on the market still.
After the news that the DH isn’t going to be back in the National League in 2021, the Brewers are going to need a legitimate first baseman because they currently don’t have one. Sure, Daniel Vogelbach is currently penciled in there, but the Brewers have previously stated they view him as a DH. His defense is sub-par and that could lead to some major issues for the team in 2021.
The free agent market for first baseman has been slow to develop this winter, and the vast majority are still available to sign.
Now that every team and player has some clarity on the DH issue, the market will start to heat up as players know which teams have DH spots to offer and teams know whether they can offer that spot.
The Brewers should look to sign free agent 1B C.J. Cron immediately to fill the hole.
Cron is one of the only true first basemen on the free agent market and one of the few that wouldn’t need a DH spot to stay in the lineup. Cron is a solid defender at first base, with a career Defensive Runs Saved of +7, so he can handle the position well.
Offensively, Cron is a big bopper, hitting 55 home runs combined in 2018 and 2019. He slugged four homers in just 13 games in 2020 before going down with a knee injury. He would immediately fix the power shortage the Brewers face in their lineup.
For his career, Cron is a .257 hitter, which isn’t the best, but among the current free agents is up near the top and for a power guy, that’s really a solid number. Most corner types with big power traditionally have lower batting averages but Cron’s is solid.
Since he’s been able to get out of Anaheim and get in the lineup regularly, Cron’s numbers have improved a lot and he’s posted an above-average OPS+ in each of the last three seasons.
He signed with the Tigers last year on a one year, $6.1MM contract. Given that he’s coming off a season shortened by injury, that salary is likely to decrease for 2021 and he’ll likely be taking a one year deal again.
If the Brewers can get Cron for a price that’s similar to or lower than Justin Smoak‘s 2020 salary, it’s something they should absolutely do considering Cron has actually been more productive recently and has a higher floor.
Cron is right-handed which should pair well with the lefty hitting Vogelbach. The Brewers might try a platoon if this signing happens, but Cron has the proven ability to play the field everyday while Vogelbach does not. A platoon may not last long if that’s the route they go.
Regardless, Cron is an upgrade over Vogelbach offensively as well as defensively and has been more consistent in his career. This is a signing Stearns should make immediately. He knows his DH situation now, and even if by some miracle that changes, this way the Brewers can be guaranteed a decent defensive first baseman.
The Brewers need to add somebody to the first base depth chart, and Cron is the best of the bunch.