Normally, we aren’t asking ourselves what to do with a right handed batter who hit a career high 30 home runs in 2018. But, here we are asking ourselves that very question as we head into what might be the most active and expensive offseason in Rays history.
Per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are “likely” to get rid of the slugging first baseman, C.J. Cron. Why? Well, due to the influx of young talent who aren’t arbitration eligible yet, the Rays have more financial flexibility than usual. This flexibility gives them an opportunity to upgrade their lefty-heavy lineup.
By non-tendering or trading Cron the Rays would save roughly 5.2 million. I also expect them to non-tender Vidal Nuno and Jesus Sucre saving an additional 2.1 million. This means that before paying Matt Duffy, Tommy Pham, and Chaz Roe their expected arbitration values which amount to a combined 8 million, the Rays only have 8,166,666 million dollars committed to the 2019 payroll (Kevin Kiermaier).
With all this flexibility, why not shop or non-tender C.J. Cron and look to upgrade? After all he did strike out roughly 26% of the time. A possible replacement in Nelson Cruz only struck out 20.6% of the time, had a higher OBP (.342 vs .318), hit 7 more homers, and drove in additional 23 runners.
Jake Bauers is the first basemen going forward and as he matures we could see real improvements at the plate. In the field, Bauers is more versatile with his ability to play in the outfield. The Rays love versatility and while Nelson Cruz would be limited to a DH role, the versatility of Wendle, Robertson, Lowe and Bauers in the infield hide Cruz’s lacking versatility.
In keeping Cron and possibly signing Nelson Cruz, the Rays would only restrict their roster’s flexibility and versatility and I do not think they are willing to do so. Keeping Cron would only increase the log jam that already exists in the infield. An infield that is soon to be joined by Kean Wong barring the Rays trading him in the offseason to fill a hole.
By November 30th, CJ Cron will have been traded or non-tendered by the Rays. This time, in my opinion it has less to do with the money they will owe him, but rather the versatility that he lacks as a fielder.
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