One of the biggest needs for the LA Angels this offseason, aside from pitching, is moving the team into a more progressive direction. Parting ways with Scioscia was a good start, but there still persists the issue of the aging Albert Pujols manning first base. He’s been deep in the process of losing potency in his bat and his body deteriorates season after season. With the Tampa Bay Rays designating 30 HR hitting first baseman C.J Cron for assignment it seems the opportunity is now.
The Rays just designated former LA Angels first baseman C.J Cron from assignment in a rather interesting move. The Rays first baseman, whom the Angels sent to Tampa Bay for Luis Rengifo in the 2018 offseason, just came off a career high 30 HR season after hitting 16 home runs in his three seasons with the Angels prior to 2018 (talk about consistency). The Rays made a similar move last year with the DFA of Corey Dickerson after he had a 27 HR season. The reasoning behind C.J Cron’s DFA is just about the same as Corey Dickerson, there was minimal trade interest for either player which prompted a DFA in order to entice minimally interested teams.
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Last year Dickerson found no takers going into Spring Training, thus he was DFA’ed to attract a trade. It looks to be about the same for C.J Cron, who is going into his second year of Arbitration Eligibility, and given his 2.3 million dollar price tag and guaranteed raise (he did just hit 30 HRs) it makes sense the Rays would want to move him. It’s a simple move that sees the team free up space for rookies to break through while allowing more financial freedom for the coming Winter Meetings. But how do the Angels play into this?
Simply put, it’s time to move on from Albert Pujols, the Angels need a new reliable first baseman to man the corner instead of the aged Pujols. What better way to replace the passable production from Pujols with the 30 HR hitting Cron? The Angels are in a clear competitive mode with the change to a philosophy that prioritizes youth over veteranship going into the future. Huge changes need to be made, and though the team started this process with the parting of ways with Scioscia the next move is moving on from Pujols.
Aside from C.J Cron being attractive due to the DFA, which all but signals the Rays are open to a cheap trade, there also lies his potent bat. C.J Cron crushes lefties, all in all he batted .307 with a .553 Slugging against left-handed pitchers through the 2018 season. On that same note, Pujols hit a paltry .200 against lefties. You don’t even have to get into splits to see how much better Cron would be for the Angels at first. Pujols hit just 19 HRs off his .259 BA, the second lowest HR total of his career and lowest total in a season in which he played over 100 games. Moving on from Pujols would be a tough move to make, not because of sentimentality or anything, but because of his contract status/legacy as well as his incumbent status as first baseman. Clearing Pujols out of the everyday lineup is just one of the Scioscia era holdovers the Angels will have to sweep away, and there really isn’t a better way to do that then by swinging a cheap trade for the recently DFA’ed Cron.
This isn’t just a move that ends here either; in order to compliment Cron the Angels could very much allow Jared Walsh a multitude of Major League AB’s given his left-handed power profile. It’s a simple move for the Angels to make that will go a long way. The only worry to this is that the Angels have left Jared Walsh off their 40 man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft, which leaves him open to be picked up by another team. However, should the Angels retain Jared Walsh, he is all but certain to compliment the Angels at first-base.
A split of C.J Cron/Jared Walsh has potential to be one of the best power platoons in all of baseball. Not only that, both players can play strong defense at first. It would likely be a split that leans towards Cron, though Walsh could very much be the player to break out of the split and take charge of the job. That’s all just conjecture however, what’s really important is that the Angels shore up their massive hole at first base by swinging a cheap deal for C.J Cron.
It would be highly within the Angels favor to bring back Cron, who likely was shipped out of Anaheim to allow Pujols all the at bats at first base by order of Scioscia. Now that Scioscia is gone the Angels are free to play baseball the smart way and not the veteran-obsessed way. The first step to curing their decade long woes is to return one of the more valuable pieces they had during the Scioscia era.
In 2017, his last year with the Angels, Cron tallied an .842 OPS with RISP. Even better was his RISP with 2 outs, Cron compiling a ridiculous .973 OPS in those moments. It’s very obvious Cron will fit in perfectly with the Angels new ways of playing baseball, he is absolutely someone you can plug into a lineup through pinch-hitting and defensive switches and come away with wins.
The best way the Angels can start off their offseason is by swinging an easy trade and welcoming back the former Angel C.J Cron in what is sure to be a playoff contending roster.