The Tampa Bay Rays are parting ways with one of their best hitters. First baseman and designated hitter C.J. Cron has been designated for assignment after hitting 30 home runs last season, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The 28-year-old Cron turned in a solid offensive year for Tampa Bay in 2018. In 560 plate appearances, Cron hit .253/.323/.493, with 30 home runs. His 122 wRC+ — an advanced stat that measures offensive performance — ranked third among players on the team with at least 300 plate appearances.
The move comes as a shock considering both Cron’s numbers and his cost. Cron made just $2.3 million in 2018, which is next to nothing within the game. He would have been due for a raise in arbitration after popping 30 home runs, but Cron wasn’t suddenly going to become a $10 million player. MLBTradeRumors projected Cron to receive $5.2 million in arbitration during the offseason.
The team reportedly made the move to open up space on its 40-man roster. The Rays wanted to protect a number of young players from the Rule 5 draft, and needed to get rid of established talent to make that happen. It’s possible the Rays attempted to deal Cron prior to making the move.
Cron’s numbers make it likely a team will claim the first baseman should the team try to pass him through waivers. The Rays can still trade Cron, but only have 10 days to get a deal done. If Cron somehow passes through waivers, the Rays can either release him or send him to the minors.
The Rays utilized a similar strategy with outfielder Corey Dickerson last winter. Dickerson was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after being designated for assignment by the Rays. He hit .300/.333/.474, with 13 home runs, and won a Gold Glove with Pittsburgh.
Only six teams saw better production at first base in 2018 according to wRC+, so Cron should be a popular target.
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