Early Saturday night, the LA Angels announced that they have traded C.J. Cron to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later.
According to the LA Angels’ official press release, this means that the “logjam,” as they put it, at first base is now lessened. With Cron gone, it confirms the winter-long speculation about Albert Pujols returning to first base for the majority of his playing time. Luis Valbuena, the odd man out in the game of musical chairs between the corner infielders, now gets his chance to play.
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The most important takeaway from this move is this: Shohei Ohtani will hit. There had been chatter all week concerning how often Ohtani will bat, especially since manager Mike Scioscia‘s early week comments about how Ohtani’s main role with the Angels will be as a pitcher. Were the Angels going to limit his playing time? Were they going to let him hit at all?
Now we can say with some real certainty that, at least against right-handed pitching, Ohtani will be in the lineup regularly as the designated hitter. This seems to confirm the assumptions that were made late last year when Ohtani signed with the Angels: Ohtani wanted to sign with a team that would let him swing the bat, and the Angels have now cleared a roster slot to ensure that Ohtani is going to get exactly that opportunity.
For Cron, it ends four years of up-and-down performances in Anaheim. A first-round draft pick (17th overall) by the Angels in 2011, he combined enormous power with questionable plate discipline in the minors, and that trend followed him into the big leagues. Like Mark Trumbo before him, Cron could carry an offense when he was hot, but strangle it when he wasn’t. 2017 was typical for Cron: he had an enormous summer, hitting 10 homers and slugged over .600 between July and August, then hit .222 with just 4 homers in the last five weeks of the season.
Now 28 years old, it’s tough to expect Cron to be anything other than what he’s been the last three years: a high-power, low efficiency bat off the bench, about to start the journeyman portion of his big league career. That he could only garner a PTBNL speaks volumes about how other organizations value his talent going forward. The PTBNL will be a minor leaguer, per Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Now that Cron is gone and Ohtani can be assumed to be the starting DH for most of his non-pitching days, the Angel roster shuffle clears up a little more. The rotation still needs to settle, and there’s still the bullpen to contend with, but the Angels’ everyday lineup seems to already have resolved itself before even the first Spring Training game has started.