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Article: Pros and Crons: Weighing the Merits of Minnesota's Latest Addition


Nick Nelson
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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.

I'm not angry about this waiver claim. I'm cautiously happy.

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"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."

 

This is a crucial point from the article. Next week, the Front Office might waive him. We don't know... They are just stockpiling options, IMO. Let's wait to pull our hair out until he makes the Opening Day roster.

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2018 numbers:

 

Cron 2.1 fWAR
Mauer 1.0 fWAR
Austin 0.3 fWAR in 69 games or 0.6 fWAR/150 games

 

Con is the best fist baseman they have now and about double as good as Mauer was last season.

 

Wonder whether the Twins gave Mauer  (a lesser player than Cron these days) an 1 yr / $6M contact, would had been so much negativity about the signing.

 

Worse come to worst, they cut him if they find anyone better.

 

Bottom line:  The Twins are better with Cron than they were the minute before they signed him.

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I wonder if the Twins won't try to slide Austin through waivers at some point this winter. If they can, they still have another bat available at AAA, which would add depth. Cron could still be cut this winter if a better option presented itself. I would think a utility type bat who can play 1st, 3rd and maybe 2nd might be signed.

 

It is also likely that Kepler will need his 1st baseman's glove this year in order to get him,Cave, and Rosario into the game at the same time.

 

It also might a bit early to make too many assumptions about what the final roster will look like, or how it will fit together.

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This is something of a marginal move, but I was never all that sold on Tyler Austin anyways. I'll have to go look at the FAs but I do think it would be good for this squad to get a high OBP LH hitter to help out.

 

A lot of this probably comes down to Austin v. Cron, and if you had to bet on who's likely to be a better player next year...how do you not take Cron? He's got 2 years of being a 2 WAR player and neither had any unsustainable fluke elements like an out of character BABIP. There's nothing wonky in his splits (like beating the crap out of september callup pitching to pad the numbers) to make you freak out. He's probably a 1.5-2.4 bWAR guy for the next 2-3 years and I'd be nervous on betting Austin can come close to matching that.

 

yes, he's going to cost more than Austin but he's also probably worth 1 more WAR than Austin. I'll take that marginal improvement for $4.5M, especially considering 1 WAR is worth about $8-9M.

 

I'm not a big fan of Austin. Not sure he'll ever get the OBP to where it needs to be to be an effective Three True Outcomes guy. It was a fine acquisition to dump Lance Lynn, and he's a decent depth guy, but I'd much rather have Cron at this point.

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

 

Otherwise, this is pointless.

Yeah I'm confused by why Cron's ability to hit LHP is a positive, since that's easily Austin's biggest skill and he's way better at it. You're only reinforcing the redundancy (very good post otherwise tho, Pseudo).

 

 

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...

Ha, there were pros in there (2018 stats, strong hitting pedigree, fewer weaknesses than Austin)! I just didn't lay them out as distinctly as the crons.

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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.

Did the Twins create customized "Welcome to MN" graphics when they claimed Michael Reed? 

 

I get what you're saying -- this move isn't permanent by any stretch -- but suggesting it's the equivalent to claiming some random AAAA waiver-wire fodder is inaccurate. I feel quite confident that the Twins are planning on carrying Cron in 2019 unless something else comes up.

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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?

 

Doesn't his $5M commitment make him LESS likely to make the team? They only have to pay him a fraction of that amount if they waive him prior to the season. If he and Austin are truly similar, wouldn't they keep Austin unless Cron shows to be a better hitter? 

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Doesn't his $5M commitment make him LESS likely to make the team? They only have to pay him a fraction of that amount if they waive him prior to the season. If he and Austin are truly similar, wouldn't they keep Austin unless Cron shows to be a better hitter? 

"Shows to be a better hitter" in what? Four weeks of spring training games? Do you think this FO is making decisions on that basis? Do you want them to?

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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.

He's a significantly better bat than what we've seen from Austin or Garver though. We had a 1 WAR first baseman last year. 

 

The Twins need to get better at first base and DH. They have no one at those positions.  The FO would be nuts to rely on Austin and Garver to handle DHing duties with no other plan. 

As for the price, who is a realistic better option on the market?

 

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/12/2018-19-mlb-free-agents.html

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Doesn't his $5M commitment make him LESS likely to make the team? They only have to pay him a fraction of that amount if they waive him prior to the season. If he and Austin are truly similar, wouldn't they keep Austin unless Cron shows to be a better hitter? 

 

I can't follow that logic.

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Slugging and striking out are still the big headlines for Cron.  I am fine with a cheap and expendable signing, but we have Rooker in the wings who can do both of those things.  I would like to see us start looking at the OPP hitters, more hits, more walks, better average, more speed.  The launch angle is already getting old.  But we can get by with the Cron/Austin/Sano/Grossman/Rooker/Cave/Kepler 1B list for now if we address the rest of the infield. 

 

Whether it was Mauer or Keith Hernandez at first, infields were not judged as quality by the glove of the first baseman.  We need the rest of the infield to measure up with some new additions. Missing out on Donaldson was a big disappointment for me.  Were we ever in the conversation?

 

All I can say is thanks for giving us something to discuss and perhaps obsess over in the dark days of November.

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Did the Twins create customized "Welcome to MN" graphics when they claimed Michael Reed? 

 

I get what you're saying -- this move isn't permanent by any stretch -- but suggesting it's the equivalent to claiming some random AAAA waiver-wire fodder ain't quite right. I feel quite confident that the Twins are planning on carrying Cron in 2019 unless something else comes up.

 

I wasn't aware of that, that's and odd thing to do. I guess then I'd agree that the plan is likely to roster him, but things change and if he doesn't look like a better player than Austin, I can't see them eating the money just to eat the money. Also, Austin would be a pretty decent toss in piece for any trades this winter.

 

And if Cron is better than Austin, why wouldn't this team want the better player? $5M? This team isn't going to get to any kind of spending limit this year, who cares about the money if the Pohlad's don't.

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If you have two similar players why would you pay the more expensive one?

Right, but how are they going to determine who's the better player in 2 weeks of spring training?

 

They have to release him within the first 16 days of ST in order to pay him 30 days termination salary (~$500k) if they cut him anytime after the 16th day through the end of ST they will pay him 45 days termination pay (~$750k)

 

Since Austin and Cron are mostly redundant I don't see the point in picking him up in the first place.

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I'll post a retraction if proven wrong, but the problem with this waiver claim, as I see it, is it tells me Falvine aren't going to do anything real to improve the 2019 Twins. Cron is your 2019 first baseman. 

 

They'll dumpster dive, look late in the offseasn for cheap FAs that don't get offers, make a waiver claim here and there for ill-fitting pieces that don't move the needle much if at all (as so accurately stated by Carole), and perhaps complete an ultimately meaningless trade or two.

 

They won't spend, they won't add any difference makers, and next by July they'll be looking to auction off parts for lotto tickets again in another wasted season.

 

If Cron is the 5th or 6th best piece acquired, fine.

 

If not, they're not doing anything worthwhile with this move. 

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Right, but how are they going to determine who's the better player in 2 weeks of spring training?

They have to release him within the first 16 days of ST in order to pay him 30 days termination salary (~$500k) if they cut him anytime after the 16th day through the end of ST they will pay him 45 days termination pay (~$750k)

Since Austin and Cron are mostly redundant I don't see the point in picking him up in the first place.

I'm not sure why everyone thinks these two are redundant. Cron is simply the better player. It's not particularly close. Cron is a legitimate major league ball player. Austin has yet to establish that. And you also have the fact that the Twins have two holes - 1B and DH - and Austin could only fill one. This signing is probably squeezing Grossman out and the Twins will start the season with both Cron and Austin in the line-up.

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I'm not sure why everyone thinks these two are redundant. Cron is simply the better player. It's not particularly close. Cron is a legitimate major league ball player. Austin has yet to establish that. And you also have the fact that the Twins have two holes - 1B and DH - and Austin could only fill one. This signing is probably squeezing Grossman out and the Twins will start the season with both Cron and Austin in the line-up.

Cron established himself last year. That's it. Before that he was on the shuttle just like Austin. Who's to say Austin wouldn't be in CJ Cron's shoes in 2019 as a 28 year old established MLB player?

 

If both players are in the lineup, boy, there goes your flexibility. You're stuck with 2 bench players on days when Cron needs a day off at 1B. I very much prefer a DH option that can play somewhere else besides 1B.

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OK, great, he was barreling up on the ball this year, and Parker H. thinks it's because he made a hands adjustment.

 

 

Couple things:

 

1. "Hands adjustment" is an oversimplification of what happened; it's more of an adjustment that has led to better synchronization of upper/lower half (timing). 

 

https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1067148289936683008

 

He has demonstrated a better "stretch" at the launch position (front side and the back side are pulling in opposite directions before firing forward) where his weight/hands are now back instead of drifting forward at the ball at front foot strike. 

 

This was something that plagued him with the Angels over the years. In his early days, he was given limited playing time and then struggled for prolonged stretches. He'd change his stance in a variety of ways over the years in efforts to find it. In 2015 he displayed an open stance with a leg kick. In 2017, after being sent to the minors to refine his swing, he came back with this hands over his head stance. 

 

Cron.png

 

In regards to the hands adjustment, he's lowered them and kept them closer to his launch spot (rather than having to move them in sync with the pitcher). He can now just go straight back stretching instead of lowering them and then bringing them to that same spot. (This is something that helped Jorge Polanco out in 2017.) This isn't necessarily something all hitters need to do but if they are ones that get out of rhythm, it might be best to shave that distance off. 

 

In short, Cron was a bit of a mess until last year. Part of it might be the swing refinement and part of it could be consistent playing time (without the fear of being demoted in LA). 

 

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.

 

 

2. Barrel rates more or less explain the amount of power potential a hitter has – not necessarily the overall hitter. Additionally, if a hitter doesn’t make a ton of contact then there overall numbers are going to be different. When you look at that top list, you can see who has some of the most raw power potential when making contact.   

 

But Barrels have been found by the StatCast guys are being significantly important to future production. I was working on an article regarding Austin and Cave’s potential and had a correspondence with MLB’s Mike Petriello. He directed me to research by TangoTom which found that Barrels correlate to future wOBA figures similarly to BB or K rates.

 

 

More or less, this is a skill that can be consistent year-over-year but it sounds like there needs to be 250+ batted ball events before considering it sustainable (which may be flukier for Austin and Cave). 

 

Barrels are important because over 75% of those become hits (and extra base hits) so the more BRLs/PA you have, the better your numbers (at least BABIP) should be. The rub is, the remainder of a hitter's profile, particularly in regards to making contact. 

 

3. One of the bigger differences between Morrison and Cron is that as a right-handed hitter, Cron is not going to see the same level of defensive shifts Morrison would. Morrison saw shifts 75% of his plate appearances while Cron had a shift just 14.5% of his. As the league continues to increase the amount of shifts, Morrison's pull side open space will be squeezed out to nothing while Cron should still have ample opportunity to find vacancy. 

 

4. I would have rather have had Josh Donaldson. 

 

 

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I'm not sure why everyone thinks these two are redundant. Cron is simply the better player. It's not particularly close. Cron is a legitimate major league ball player. Austin has yet to establish that. 

Austin (age 26): .232/.290/.469 (.758)

Cron (through age 26): .267/.308/.453 (.760)

 

I'll grant that Cron is better right now but from my view Austin has same/equal upside, and with where this team's at I'm not sure Cron's a better fit by any means. 

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Why acquire the more expensive guy in the first place?

 

There is hardly time for anyone to prove anything before you are committed to Cron.

 

It was just a waiver claim, they didn't give up anything for him and they haven't committed anything to him at this point. I don't really have any interest in Cron, though he does seem to be a better overall player than Austin.

 

I'd prefer the team tread 1B as a second DH and fill it accordingly throughout the season to maximize the offense, but no team has ever done that so it would be crazy for me to expect them to do it. This minor move just doesn't anger me; the negativity surrounding this move seems more like people are upset about the losing and are going to hold the front office's feet to the fire for any decision not deemed excellent. This is just so minimally consequential and non-binding I don't think it is worthy to add to the demerit column.

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Austin (age 26): .232/.290/.469 (.758)

Cron (through age 26): .267/.308/.453 (.760)

 

I'll grant that Cron is better right now but from my view Austin has same/equal upside, and with where this team's at I'm not sure Cron's a better fit by any means. 

That's cherry picking stats though. At 26, Austin has managed 400 at-bats in his career. Cron had already met that threshold twice in a season. Austin had also played in much better ballparks for hitters but OPS+ shows that Cron was better - 111 v. 100. 

 

Cron had a down 2017 but bounced back pretty well. I don't think the Twins should have gone into the season relying on Austin to break out at 27. It might happen but that's probably not what you should plan for. I also don't see anything to suggest that Austin has 120+ OPS upside. 

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It was just a waiver claim, they didn't give up anything for him and they haven't committed anything to him at this point. I don't really have any interest in Cron, though he does seem to be a better overall player than Austin.

 

I'd prefer the team tread 1B as a second DH and fill it accordingly throughout the season to maximize the offense, but no team has ever done that so it would be crazy for me to expect them to do it. This minor move just doesn't anger me; the negativity surrounding this move seems more like people are upset about the losing and are going to hold the front office's feet to the fire for any decision not deemed excellent. This is just so minimally consequential and non-binding I don't think it is worthy to add to the demerit column.

Or, we don't like the move. For all the actual reasons laid out, and it isn't some kind of irrational anger over losing.

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I'll post a retraction if proven wrong, but the problem with this waiver claim, as I see it, is it tells me Falvine aren't going to do anything real to improve the 2019 Twins. Cron is your 2019 first baseman. 

 

They'll dumpster dive, look late in the offseasn for cheap FAs that don't get offers, make a waiver claim here and there for ill-fitting pieces that don't move the needle much if at all (as so accurately stated by Carole), and perhaps complete an ultimately meaningless trade or two.

 

They won't spend, they won't add any difference makers, and next by July they'll be looking to auction off parts for lotto tickets again in another wasted season.

 

If Cron is the 5th or 6th best piece acquired, fine.

 

If not, they're not doing anything worthwhile with this move. 

 

They might not do anything and that's the signal they've been giving. If nothing else materializes as far as free agency or trades I think people have reason to vent. This team should be giving out 3 year deals to some of the power-armed relievers like candy.

 

I don't think Cron will stop or has stopped the team from doing other moves though. I don't want any of the free agent 1B anyway. A Matt Adams or Lucas Duda signing would have bothered me more than this.

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To me, this is a "why not" move.  They really aren't obligated by a financial commitment to keep him.  He is in his prime, whatever that may be.  If it's what he has been in the past, very little loss if they let him go.  If last year is what he now is, then they just got a cheap power hitter who can play 1B and DH.  At this point, he is much more established as a big leaguer than Tyler Austin, so I'm not sure why people would think he is "redundant" just b/c we have Austin.  I'd guess one stays and one goes.

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Or, we don't like the move. For all the actual reasons laid out, and it isn't some kind of irrational anger over losing.

 

Well it seems like every move is met with anger these days. This is a molehill not a mountain, the frustration seems out of place when it's on something this small. And I understand why there is frustration overall, I feel it too.

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Well it seems like every move is met with anger these days. This is a molehill not a mountain, the frustration seems out of place when it's on something this small. And I understand why there is frustration overall, I feel it too.

Every move? This is the first move, isn't it? I'm not angry,I disagree with the move. A lot.

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