The Rays sent the internet in a hot take frenzy when they designated former first baseman/DH CJ Cron for assignment. He ‘got Corey Dickerson’d’ they said. Even as someone on the side of keeping Cron around, I myself was hardly surprised when the move was announced.
Contrary to popular belief (mainly of those not close to the organization), the move to DFA Cron was not a financial one, as the Rays’ intention to upgrade at the DH position has been made extremely clear. An intention that would cost the team well more than the $4.2MM salary he was projected to get via arbitration.
Read more here: Why the Rays designated C.J. Cron for assignment
While Cron’s career year was well documented, it seems the Rays are betting on it being just that—a career year.
And they aren’t the only ones, as FanGraphs Steamer projects a 102 wRC+ In 2019 and no trade partners emerged for Cron last week among the other 29 MLB teams.
What once seemed like a bargain for 30 dingers now seems like a hefty price tag for league average production. Cron was expected to reach free agency and perhaps be availble to sign should the Rays find no better answers at DH later this winter, but a team has finally swooped in to take on Cron’s contract.
The #MNTwins claimed 1B C.J. Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay.— Dustin Morse (@morsecode) November 26, 2018
Cron played in 140 games for the Rays last season, hitting .253 (127-for-501) with 28 doubles, 30 home runs, 74 RBI and a .323 on-base percentage.#MNTwins roster at 39
The move reunited the Rays primary DH with the Twins new manager Rocco Baldelli, a Rays coach last season.
So where do the Rays go from here?
On the trade front, Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks remains a real possibility if the team want to go the win now route, while a guy like Jose Martinez of the Cardinals makes more economic sense. Either way, the Rays would have to part with prospects, which is hard to see for a team that prioritizes and relies on its farm system unless it’s a buyer’s market (hello, Tommy Pham).
Free agency presents a few more options...
Donaldson in agreement with #Braves on one-year, $23M free-agent contract, sources tell The Athletic. Deal is pending a physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 26, 2018
Likely candidate Josh Donaldson has been linked to the Braves this afternoon, but Nelson Cruz and local product Andrew McCutchen have also been mentioned by Rays writers this off-season and are still available, with Marc Topkin noting the Rays will be shopping in the $10 million price range.