CJ Cron has had something of an interesting major league career. Spending the first four years as an Angel, Cron was mostly blocked from a full-time playing role by Albert Pujols. Even if it weren’t for the presence of Pujols though, Cron didn’t exactly force the issue, never hitting better than 14 percent better than the league average. Through his first four seasons, his .262/.307/.449 slash line was rather unimpressive for a first baseman.
After the 2017 season, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Cron, and now with a full-time role, the results were much better. Cron led American League first basemen in home runs (30), isolated power (.240), and wRC+ (124). It wasn’t enough for the Rays to keep him around, as they designated Cron for assignment after the season.
From there, Cron latched on with the Twins, where he posted 101 wRC+ in 125 games. In his first year of free agency, Cron signed a one-year deal with the Tigers. It was a small sample, as he was limited to just 13 games, but it looked like there was a shift in his approach that has carried over to 2021 with the Rockies.
From 2014 to 2019, Cron walked at a rate that was about 38 percent below the league average. Since the start of the 2020 season, he’s has more than doubled that rate, and in his combined 310 plate appearances, he is now walking at a 12.6 percent clip. Because of this, Cron is posting a career-best .357 on-base percentage.
But it’s not all good for Cron. Improved approach aside, he is mostly a lefty masher at this point in his career, boasting a formidable 148 wRC+ against southpaws. And while that won’t get him a lucrative multi-year contract on the open market, it might make him an interesting option for teams looking to add a right-handed bat come July 31.
In particular, the Rays are a team that comes to mind, who carry a 95 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and have some familiarity. There is also the Brewers, who carry the same mark against lefties. Cron could be a clear upgrade over the struggling Keston Hiura and be a short side platoon with newly acquired Rowdy Tellez. The Mariners could be an interesting destination as well, who currently sit three games above .500 and have become a fringe contender.
Whatever the case may be, Cron may be doing the best hitting of his career right now. Trusted projections such as ZiPS and THE BAT X, the latter of which includes Statcast Data, believe that Cron will actually produce better results, outputting wRC+ marks of 119 and 125 for the rest of the season.
While Cron may not be the sexiest of trade deadline acquisitions, there are plenty of teams who could use his services. While surely teams are feeling out the market for players like Kris Bryant or Nelson Cruz, Cron could be an interesting pivot for the teams who lose out, or for the teams who may not have the pockets to take on the remainder of some larger salaries.
Brian Menéndez is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score, as well as a senior writer for DRaysBay and freelance contributor to FiveThirtyEight. He has also been featured in The Hardball Times. You can find Brian on Twitter at @briantalksbsb.