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Cruz, Ramos, Cahill, and Soria

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:05 PM
I guess the Twins are trying damage control after upsetting their fan-base     https://www.mlbtrade...vor-cahill.html
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Derek Falvey Interview on 1500 ESPN

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:47 PM
Falvey discusses Sano, payroll, etc. http://www.1500espn....an-mackey-judd/
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LEN3 Throws Cold Water on Hot Stove

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:47 PM
http://m.startribune...ings/502283381/ Don't get your hopes up. The Twins, according to LEN3, aren't going to do much at the winter meeti...
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Article: Standing Pat as a Strategy

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:21 PM
'As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow.' – HoraceBy all appearances, this is go...
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minorleagueball being discontinued by Vox media

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 09:17 PM
Wonder where John will go... It's a great site and a must read. Big mistake by Vox.   https://www.minorlea...om-john-sickels  ...
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Pros and Crons: Weighing the Merits of Minnesota's Latest Addition

On Monday, the Minnesota Twins announced that they'd claimed first baseman C.J. Cron off waivers, which is great news because it provided me an opportunity to use the terrible title pun you see above. (Yes, I'm aware Cron's last name isn't actually pronounced like 'con' but LEMME HAVE MY FUN.)

Is Cron's addition good news for other, more legitimate reasons? Let's take a look-see.
Image courtesy of Douglas DeFelice, USA Today
Cron was available on waivers after the Tampa Bay Rays surprisingly designated him for assignment last week. They were clearing room to load up their 40-man roster with younger talent, and shaving off some 2019 payroll as well. Cron is expected to earn around $5 million in arbitration next year, and is under team control in 2020 as well.

Let's start with the positives: He's coming off a breakout age-28 season in which he slashed .253/.323/.493 with 30 home runs and 74 RBIs. His 2.1 WAR would've ranked fourth among Twins position players.

Although Cron took his game to a new level in 2018, it's not like it came out of nowhere. He was once an elite college slugger, putting up a 1.300 OPS in both his sophomore and junior years at Utah before the Angels selected him 17th overall in 2011. He was the top first baseman selected.

He has an .836 career OPS in the minors and has also been a consistently solid hitter in the big leagues. Although his 108 OPS+ heading into 2018 was unspectacular for someone with minimal defensive value, he notably hasn't tanked at any point; in parts of five MLB seasons Cron has never finished with an OPS below .739.

Of course, the fact that he's a formerly fringey player coming off a career-best slugging performance with the Rays means Cron is bound to draw unfavorable associations with Logan Morrison, who fizzled in Minnesota after joining up under similar circumstances last year.

In a way, such comparisons are clearly misguided. These are two completely different players, and not all – or even most – who break out in their late 20s experience immediate and drastic regression.

With that said, there are some substantive parallels between the two that make this a questionable move, from my view.

1: Cron is redundant on the Twins roster.

When they signed Morrison in February, he seemed like a bit of an odd fit – a lefty-swinging first baseman on a team that already had one in Joe Mauer. Of course, finding Morrison ABs wasn't really gonna be an issue if he hit like had the year before, and that's also true enough for Cron, who I find to be an even odder fit.

Cron is a righty-swinging 1B/DH added to a roster that already has exactly that in Tyler Austin. Granted, Austin's weaknesses are far more glaring – namely his .290 career OBP, 37% strikeout rate as a big-leaguer, and terrible numbers against righties – but he's also two years younger and about 10% the expected cost.

It's kinda hard to see Minnesota carrying both Cron and Austin next year, given their lack of complementary traits. Austin will be out of options in spring training. I'm not saying the Twins should be fully committed to a guy with his flaws, but Cron is an odd choice to push or replace him. Seems like either a more significant upgrade to place in front of Austin, or a lefty swinger to optimize for Austin's platoon splits, would make a lot more sense.

In fairness, the Twins aren't committed to Cron – they could cut him before the end of spring training at a negligible cost – but I suspect they wouldn't make this claim if they didn't (at least presently) intend to keep him.

2: Cron's massive power outburst looks like an outlier against his career.

By hitting 38 home runs for the Rays in 2017, Morrison obliterated his previous career high (23). The same is true for Cron's 30 in 2018, which nearly doubled his prior peak (16). In each case, the lift in long balls was driven by a suddenly elite barrel percentage – Morrison's 12.8% in 2017 was among the league's top 5% of hitters and Cron's 12.2% this year was in the top 8%. Their breakouts also coincided with new career highs in strikeout rate, with each ranking among the highest 10% of hitters for the first time.

So, there are similarities that go beyond "dudes from Tampa who hit a bunch of home runs." But again, none of their shared traits guarantee regression by any means, and who knows how much Morrison's drop-off was influenced by a hip injury that eventually required surgery.

This leaves us with little reason to view Cron's emergence with major skepticism. Except for this...

3: Despite coming off a career year, in his prime, Cron drew minimal interest around the league.

Ranking seventh in the majors in home runs at age 29, right before hitting the open market, seemingly should've teed up Morrison as a red-hot commodity. Yet, the Rays made no real effort to bring him back, and in fact Morrison waited until the end of February before settling for a one-year, $6.5 million with the Twins.

Meanwhile, Cron's availability hasn't been a secret; Rays beat writer Marc Topkin suggested at the beginning of November that a Cron trade "seems likely," and added that Tampa was seeking "more of a feared overall hitter."

When they couldn't trade him before last week's roster deadline, the Rays instead designated Cron for assignment. And when they still couldn't find a taker with reduced leverage in DFA limbo, they let him hit waivers, where Cron was passed up by a number of teams before Minnesota took him.

That is just awfully conspicious for a guy with Cron's combination of age, upward trajectory, team control, and reasonable salary.

My read is that teams largely aren't sold on his evolution as a hitter. And up until 2018 Cron just wasn't a very valuable asset, totalling 2.0 WAR in more than 400 games. His solid OPS figures have always been heavily SLG-driven (arguably less valuable than OBP, especially on a team like the Twins) and his walk rates have always been subpar.

In general, modern front offices are trending away from these sorts of inflexible, slow-moving, free-swinging power hitters. And the Twins are now at the forefront of this movement, which makes the claim a puzzling one. This isn't the kind of FO that gets starry-eyed over 30 home runs, nor is it one to downplay the restricting aspects of rostering a player like Cron – especially in addition to an Austin AND Miguel Sano.

So, I can only deduce they're really seeing something here. Perhaps the Twins were further compelled to action by new skipper Rocco Baldelli, who became very familiar with Cron as a Rays coach this year.

While tempting, given the dearth of other things to discuss, let us not over-inflate the magnitude of this move. We're not even in December. Cron might not be here in February, or January for that matter (this front office isn't averse to switching course when circumstances change – just ask Jaime Garcia or Anibal Sanchez).

But at the very least, it's an interesting move. Not interesting in the 'outside the box, forward-thinking, blatantly clever' kinda way I'm hoping to see from the Twins this offseason. But interesting anyway.

What say you? Are you more drawn to the pros or Crons... er, cons?

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171 Comments

I think you laid out the Crons very well. Which is why this move is puzzling on the surface. I see redundancy with Austin already on roster, unless he was picked up to replace Austin entirely. This pick up doesn't jive with the pro-versatility movement around the league.
    • TheLeviathan, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
Nick, to me, you sort of answer your own question whether this move is pro or cron...errr...con.

They ARE different players, and should be treated as such. If Morrisson had actually been fully healthy, maybe we aren't even having this discussion right now. Even had Morrisson just performed to his career averages, he would have been useful, and maybe/probably in the incumbent 1B for 2019. Of course, that's not the way it worked out, unfortunately. And who knows, maybe Morrison will sign a small deal somewhere, be 100%, have a nice season and we'll all be lamenting woulda, coulda, shoulda.

I like what I saw of Austin and am intrigued by change of scenery and opportunity. But he remains an unknown. Cron is not a big sexy acquisition to be sure. And I absolutely believe his signing came with the approval of Baldelli who has watched him. None of his previous seasons were great, though not bad either, but Rocco was there to watch him "break through" in 2019 with hjs first season with 500AB.

Do we get the same guy? Who knows. Maybe the BA and OB go up but the power slides some. But even though $5M is an amount most of can't conceive of, it's small in the market of MLB. And the team is not committed to either he or Austin moving forward. For goodness sake, we are paying Hughes as much or more NOT to play.

It's a smart move with no downside. Now to move to an infielder, the pen, and I'm still hoping and wondering about a BIG bat to deepen the OF and all kinds of possibilities.
    • gunnarthor, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 3 others like this

I'm skeptical because his improvement this year is entirely tied to a small increase in hard contact and barrel rates, which probably explains his jump in HR/FB rate. Otherwise he was basically the same player as before.

 

OK, great, he was barreling up on the ball this year, and Parker H. thinks it's because he made a hands adjustment. But barrel rates don't necessarily correspond to top hitters (Joey Gallo was #1 this year in Brls/PA%; Jake Cave and Tyler Austin were in the Top 20, higher than Cron; Logan Morrison's 7.2 Brls/PA% ranked 49th, not far below Cron's 7.9%). And it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Cron's barrel rate regress to his 2017 level of 6.7% just from natural, random variation. He might fall back on some old habits without even realizing it, or he might just not enjoy quite as much good luck again.

 

Maybe this is just a placeholder move. Maybe it's a sign that they don't have much faith in Austin, or they don't intend to seriously go after someone like Carlos Santana. And that's OK if they see Cron as a safer, lower-cost alternative to Santana. I wouldn't bet $41M over the next 2 years on Santana being a 3-win 1B/DH, either. But I doubt that the Twins really picked up a 30 HR, 2-win player from the scrap pile today. I don't think that Cron really moves the needle for this team much at all.

    • mikelink45, Vanimal46 and gagu like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 26 2018 09:55 PM

 

It's a smart move with no downside. Now to move to an infielder, the pen, and I'm still hoping and wondering about a BIG bat to deepen the OF and all kinds of possibilities.

The downside is that he goes back to being baseline Cron – good enough to run with for awhile, but a one-dimensional, 1 WAR player – and things don't work out with Austin or Sano, and suddenly the Twins have treaded water on trying to find a real solution at first base.

 

It just wouldn't be an especially imaginative or high-upside splash at one of the team's key areas of opportunity for adding offense. There's a world of possibilities out there. But again, I understand that it's very early and nothing is final.

    • USAFChief, glunn, frightwig and 3 others like this

I think this analysis leaves out how well Cron hit lefties last year (.307 .376 .553 .930 in 170 PAs) (even with the outsized BAbip), and pretty well in 2017 as well (.233 .290 .500 .790 in 93 PAs) (lower-than-career-average BAbip).  

 

Although there's some redundancy between Austin and Cron, I think that there will always be redundancy between 1b/DH; and although a left-hander would have been preferable, that Cron hits lefties well, doesn't make him quite as redundant to Austin as we might think. 

 

Every team would like position flexibility, including the DH, but that's idealistic, and given the holes at both 1B and DH, I think the loss of flexibility is worth bringing in a bat with some kind of positive track record.Clearly, not the AL teams with worse records than the Twins (and the Rays) think so, but they may not have two gaping holes as the Twins do.  

 

The fear is that this will be the Twins only move or is representative of the moves the Twins have traditionally made throughout the past several decades. That said, I don't believe the new regime is mired in frugality, perhaps as last off season showed (notwithstanding the results). 

    • Nick Nelson, glunn, gunnarthor and 3 others like this

I would say Cron is one of those nice pickups that could be flipped down the line (shades of Morrison if he had produced and din't get injured at the last moment). Word is still out on out-of-options Austin who could be the next Chris Parmelee (or Kevin Maas) for all we know. Austin could play in an already packed outfield that sees the return of last years big three starters with names like Reed, Cave and Grossman looking for playing time, not to mention Wade (and maybe somehow Granite remains). 

 

Of course, Sano is still the elephant in the room. If he plays third, then we have a first baseman and a DH for 2019 and too many outfielders, and no one costing us a lot of money until the Twins decide if a Raley or Rooker or someone else is ready for a longterm look beginning in 2020.

 

Would we rather see the aging Cruz at DH and pulling down about twice in salary (why not, the Twins have money to burn). Could the Twins get Santana? Was there ever really an interest in Goldschmidt>

 

The Twins, if they cut Cron before x-amount of spring training games, are only in for a fraction. They saw that someone might be claiming him, instead of hoping he became a bonifide free agent and cost more (or less, shades of Trevor Plouffe).

 

But in the other news, I might've gambled on $23 million for Donaldson instead and see if Sano is our future first baseman or just a forever DH (or the next Oswaldo Arcia) in 2019.

 

Ah, well. who is still at second, or is it shortstop. And I don't know could still be third base.

    • beckmt, PseudoSABR, mikelink45 and 1 other like this
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nicksaviking
Nov 26 2018 10:35 PM
This was a waiver claim, not a free agent signing. These happen all the time and with his pay, lack of position and noted redundancy, I’d say he’s got an uphill battle to make the team. I’m really struggling to understand why there is so much frustration with this. Like the rest of the league, the Twins will probably make two or three other moves like this before spring, these guys are just lotto tickets. I don’t recall this much anger over claiming Michael Reed.
    • Cris E, Danchat, LA VIkes Fan and 7 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Nov 26 2018 10:39 PM

 

This was a waiver claim, not a free agent signing. These happen all the time and with his pay, lack of position and noted redundancy, I’d say he’s got an uphill battle to make the team. I’m really struggling to understand why there is so much frustration with this. Like the rest of the league, the Twins will probably make two or three other moves like this before spring, these guys are just lotto tickets. I don’t recall this much anger over claiming Michael Reed.

 

Don't you think this is a bit different considering his expected arbitration price?

 

As Nick points out, I doubt the Twins make this claim without plans to have him on the roster.And that means they are planting (at least partially) their 1B/DH flag on Cron and a 5M commitment.

 

People keep saying they don't see the downside, but the better question is.....where's the upside?

    • USAFChief and mikelink45 like this
Ten to fifteen percent of their free agent budget is now gone. To add a guy that might be 1 WAR better than Austin, and making it likely Garver sits around for 80-100 games, instead of playing some first and DH .... At least to start the year. Unless Austin is gone.

The downside is that he goes back to being baseline Cron – good enough to run with for awhile, but a one-dimensional, 1 WAR player – and things don't work out with Austin or Sano, and suddenly the Twins have treaded water on trying to find a real solution at first base.
 
It just wouldn't be an especially imaginative or high-upside splash at one of the team's key areas of opportunity for adding offense. There's a world of possibilities out there. But again, I understand that it's very early and nothing is final.


Agreed! But there is upside and opportunity.

Still depends on the rest of the moves made.

At this point, of course, I'm still looking for a quality infielder and a couple top BP options.

But clearly the team is looking for depth and opportunity. They are not simply handing the 1B job to Austin. And I think that's a positive. If both rake in ST, you have a nice problem to consider.

This is NOT the bat I wanted or considered. It doesn't mean it's a bad move, or that we are committed to either Cron or Austin for anything. I would STILL sign McCutchen or Brantley and let Rocco sort out the team and lineup from strength.
    • Twins33, LA VIkes Fan, gagu and 1 other like this
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TheLeviathan
Nov 26 2018 11:06 PM

 

Agreed! But there is upside and opportunity. 

 

What's the upside?

 

Don't you think this is a bit different considering his expected arbitration price?

 

As Nick points out, I doubt the Twins make this claim without plans to have him on the roster.And that means they are planting (at least partially) their 1B/DH flag on Cron and a 5M commitment.

 

People keep saying they don't see the downside, but the better question is.....where's the upside?

I think the upside is a solid .800 OPS+ hitter at 1B or DH. I also think of it as a backup plan for that position... many here keep saying the Twins need a backup plan for Buxton and Sano at CF and 3B, but we have zero established starters at 1B/DH, so why not add some depth? If Austin hits .200 with a bagillion strikeouts, then Cron could step up and fill in better. 

 

I suppose it does mean the Twins are going to concede a bit in free agency, but I'm not excited about the 1B/DH market at the moment. I guess in that perspective the move is a bit disappointing, but outside of Cruz, who is there? Move Daniel Murphy to 1B? Matt Adams? Boy, there just isn't much else. Perhaps better options exist in the trade market.

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, TheLeviathan and 5 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Nov 26 2018 11:18 PM

 

I think the upside is a solid .800 OPS+ hitter at 1B or DH. I also think of it as a backup plan for that position... many here keep saying the Twins need a backup plan for Buxton and Sano at CF and 3B, but we have zero established starters at 1B/DH, so why not add some depth? If Austin hits .200 with a bagillion strikeouts, then Cron could step up and fill in better. 

 

I guess I can't see this as being a depth move.If you make this claim, you're planning on him being more than that.Otherwise, it seems odd to want to commit a relatively significant amount of money to him.

 

And where I struggle to see the upside is when you juxtapose what Cron can bring to what Austin can bring.There is significant downside in both of them as neither have established being a legitimate starting 1B at this point, but their upsides look roughly similar too.So....why not just keep the cheaper guy you already have on your roster?

 

I don't know, I look at things through an upside lens.I want the Twins to make moves that will maximize their possible success.And I just don't see how this moves that needle.

Bottom line is this move merely gives you another option when the balls start flying in March.Might make the club, might not.Same as Tyler Austin.Might make it might not. In a perfect world he gets 600 plate appearances, hits 25 home runs and drives in 85.Any move that decreases the chances of Robbie Grossman's 5 home runs being a vital cog in the lineup is a move worth taking.

    • Cris E, TL, DocBauer and 1 other like this
If the twins have a fifty million dollar spending budget, five of that is gone. Do people think they'll go over, and then cut Cron? Or, do you think that money is now spent and not not available?
If this is their only 1b/DH move it leaves a lot to be desired, but I don't think it is. I think it's ST competition for Austin and Sano (and Grossman if he's still around). 5 mil isn't nothing, but he can be cut before the season without having to pay most of that so if he shows up and clearly doesn't have it then you're not doing any real damage to your budget.

These boards would blow up during April and May if the Twins didn't make any moves like this and just handed the 1B job to Austin and he comes out of the gates striking out 40% of the time and we don't have any sort of possible replacement.

I know the Twins have a history of making this kind of move and just stopping because "$5 mil is a lot in our small market," but this just doesn't feel like that kind of move to me. I don't think they're concerned with it from a budget standpoint. They're taking a flyer on a guy who has some potential. They didn't give up any prospects and I just don't feel that it stops any of their other acquisition plans this offseason.

Much ado about nothing if you ask me. Adding depth is good.
    • Kelly Vance, LA VIkes Fan, DocBauer and 3 others like this

If this is their only 1b/DH move it leaves a lot to be desired, but I don't think it is. I think it's ST competition for Austin and Sano (and Grossman if he's still around). 5 mil isn't nothing, but he can be cut before the season without having to pay most of that so if he shows up and clearly doesn't have it then you're not doing any real damage to your budget.

These boards would blow up during April and May if the Twins didn't make any moves like this and just handed the 1B job to Austin and he comes out of the gates striking out 40% of the time and we don't have any sort of possible replacement.

I know the Twins have a history of making this kind of move and just stopping because "$5 mil is a lot in our small market," but this just doesn't feel like that kind of move to me. I don't think they're concerned with it from a budget standpoint. They're taking a flyer on a guy who has some potential. They didn't give up any prospects and I just don't feel that it stops any of their other acquisition plans this offseason.

Much ado about nothing if you ask me. Adding depth is good.


So you think this did not come out of the free agent budget at all? They'll still spend just as much? So if they keep him, they would be four or five million over budget. Or, you think they have a fre agent budget, and it is now less?
    • TheLeviathan likes this

Pro: you get a player that's probably better than Austin at a cost of nothing but cash.

 

 

Cron: probably not dramatically better than Austin, while costing 10x as much and potentially restricting/stopping the acquisition of a better player elsewhere.

    • frightwig, Twins33, TheLeviathan and 3 others like this

Lower cost, lower risk pick-up.Think of the potential headlines Nick if/when C.J. has a good game or series, "Twins unlease The Krath of Cron" (for you Star Trek fans out there.)

    • glunn and DocBauer like this

A real yawner. Has an upside. Has doubts. It makes me want to take a nap, and I just woke up.

    • DannySD likes this
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Original Whizzinator
Nov 27 2018 05:49 AM

So you think this did not come out of the free agent budget at all? They'll still spend just as much? So if they keep him, they would be four or five million over budget. Or, you think they have a fre agent budget, and it is now less?


I think just like last year there is a plus or minus range in their budget greater than 5m based opportunity. For example they were maybe done last year but when Morrison was available for cheap (6.5m) they said what the heck. So i would say this definitely does not hamper their budget. Plus if he looks similar to Austin let him go or if he looks good and you keep him you can always trade him mid season. We didn't give up anything for him. Where's the problem?
    • glunn, Winston Smith and chpettit19 like this
1. If the Twins want to drop a pile of cash on a free agent, the $5 mil for Cron isn't going to stop them.

2. I would argue that seeking a 1B platoon partner for Austin would limit roster flexibility more than simply trying to upgrade from him.
    • glunn, nicksaviking, Riverbrian and 5 others like this
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Don't Feed the Greed Guy
Nov 27 2018 07:00 AM

 

I think this analysis leaves out how well Cron hit lefties last year (.307 .376 .553 .930 in 170 PAs) (even with the outsized BAbip), and pretty well in 2017 as well (.233 .290 .500 .790 in 93 PAs) (lower-than-career-average BAbip).  

 

 

Thanks for weighing out at least one of the Pro's. Loved your witty opening, Nick, but you have to weigh both pros & cons if that's what you promise in your headline. Groan, you only listed three croans, I mean crons, I mean cons...

 

I think this analysis leaves out how well Cron hit lefties last year (.307 .376 .553 .930 in 170 PAs) (even with the outsized BAbip), and pretty well in 2017 as well (.233 .290 .500 .790 in 93 PAs) (lower-than-career-average BAbip).  

 

 

 

 

So...they're going to add a LH hitting first baseman to platoon with Cron? 

 

Otherwise, this is pointless.

    • TheLeviathan likes this

Since May, I have been talking about the need for flexibility. 

 

First move of the off-season was the exact opposite.:)

    • glunn, Blake, TheLeviathan and 3 others like this

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