In case you missed it, the Angels signed Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler last week. The team already has glove man extraordinaire Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and Luis Valbuena as a left handed hitting option to back up both first and third base.
Then there’s the contract: Albert Pujols is supposedly dropping weight in order to play first base a couple of days a week and earn a bit of his monstrous contract in 2018.
Of course, the entire reason Pujols needs to walk out to first is the Angels winning the Shohei Ohtani lottery and planning on using him as a left handed DH a couple of days a week.
Clearly, there is no room for CJ Cron on the Angels roster for 2018. But, he might be able to bring back a modest return in a trade.
Assessing Cron’s Value
By just about any metric, Cron is a slightly above average MLB hitter with decent power but below par on base skills. His career slash line is .262/.307/.449 which is good for a career OPS+ of 108 and wRC+ of 107.
Cron, however, is very consistent on a yearly basis and should surpass 20 home runs with fairly regular playing time.
Defensively, he is limited to first base and plays at a fairly replacement level with a -0.2 dWAR according to Baseball Reference in 2017. He has committed himself to improving his defense and the eyeball (Lyle) test indicates that has been the case the last couple of years.
CJ Cron will make just north of $2 million in 2018, his first season of arbitration eligibility and will become a free agent in 2021. An acquiring team would be obtaining a relatively inexpensive player with years of club control.
The free agent market for first basemen is fairly crowded at the moment, but the trade market seems to be non-existent. Cron is clearly a step behind Eric Hosmer but he does stack up favorably with the second tier of available first basement.
Yonder Alonso. Career slash line of .268/.340/.407 is good for a career OPS+ of 109 and wRC+ of 107. Projected to earn $10 million per year for 2-3 years.
Logan Morrison. Chase’s darling had a great year last year, pushing his career slash line to .245/.330/.433 with an OPS+ of 109 and wRC+ of 109. If you believe last year was the new norm for him and that his huge home run spike is sustainable (he went from 14 to 38), then maybe this isn’t a good comparison but the big picture says it is. He’s also projected to earn $10 million per year for 3 years.
The Step Below
There are some well past prime candidates on the market like old friend turned nemesis Mike Napoli and the newly released Adrian Gonzalez. A team could also consider Matt Kemp, I’d imagine. The theme here is that Cron is much younger than all of the above and is free of the age and/or platoon issues they represent.
Possible Landing Spots:
Minnesota Twins: they have been linked to Mike Napoli in the last week. Anyone interested in taking Napoli on a free agent deal should be interested in a younger, more productive, cheaper option in Cron. I’m not going to pretend to know their system well, but letting us simply keep Bard would make me happy.
Cleveland Indians: they recently saw Carlos Santana depart for the Philadelphia Phillies and have pretty big money tied up in Edwin Encarnacion. Cron could be more cost effective replacement than the above mentioned options. A bit of a stretch but not much.
Tampa Bay Rays: looking to trim payroll and are likely losing the services of Morrison. Putting Cron in the bandboxes of the AL East with the same peripherals likely increases his HR total.
Less Likely Landing Spots:
San Diego Padres if they miss out on adding Hosmer. Chicago White Sox if they trade Abreu and continue their rebuild. Seattle Mariners because Dipoto must be involved in every trade possible. NY Mets if they give up on Dominic Smith (and because they are cheap).
Not much. Cron is about a 1 WAR player making about 1/4th of what a WAR is costing on the free agent market. There is some surplus value there, but not a ton.
However, if you consider him a decent comp to Alonso and Morrison, who will make roughly 5 times Cron’s salary, you can see a little more value. If I’m Eppler, that’s my pitch and I sell it hard.
I would predict Eppler would pick up a pitcher with a huge fastball but control issues or a guy sitting in the 15-20 range on a team’s prospect list. Not a lot, but more than we’ll get by simply releasing him.
I’ve made my pitch on how I’d sell Cron and who I think might buy it. Did I miss a landing location? Over sell Cron? Under sell others? Let me know.