The five-second hot take reaction to the Twins picking up power hitter C.J. Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay was “here we go again.” Twins fans, still stinging from last year’s acquisition of 38-home run hitter Logan Morrison, also from Tampa Bay, wanted no part of that process repeated.
Assuming the Twins keep Cron and bring him to arbitration, he figures to make a little over $5 million next season — a shade less than the $6.5 million Morrison was guaranteed last year, but comparable. Both guys led the Rays in homers the year before they came to the Twins.
Morrison hit 15 more home runs in 2017 than he had ever hit in another season. Cron hit 14 more in 2018 — 30 total — than he had ever hit in a season. Both are first basemen/DHs.
So why are the Twins trying this again? Well, probably because these are two different players even if the circumstances seem similar.
In Morrison’s five previous combined seasons before hitting 38 homers for the Rays in 2017, his averages per 162 games were: 19 home runs, a .239 batting average and a .712 OPS. He vaulted to 38 homers (in 149 games) in 2017 with an .868 OPS. Launch angle was credited with the leap, but his regression in 2018 (.644 OPS) suggests the one-year jump was more of an aberration.
In Cron’s four previous combined seasons before hitting 30 homers for the Rays in 2018, his averages per 162 games were: 24 home runs, a .262 batting average and a .756 OPS. That’s not wholly out of line with his production last season, when he posted an .816 OPS while getting more playing time. Even if he dropped back down to his pre-2018 levels, he would be a useful player. The average AL first baseman had a .738 OPS last season, and the average AL DH had an OPS of .780.
Morrison also turned 31 in the middle of the 2018 season with the Twins, while Cron is about to turn 29 in January.
Another key stat: Cron, a right-handed batter, crushed lefties last season (.930 OPS compared to a still good .767 vs. righties), but for his career it’s an almost even split: .776 OPS vs. left-handed pitching, .770 vs. right-handed pitching.
Morrison, a left-handed batter, has more pronounced splits: .773 OPS against righties in his career but just .691 vs. lefties.
Long story short: Cron is a younger, slightly cheaper version of what the Twins hoped they were getting in Morrison last year, with a more consistent track record and a better chance to be in the lineup against righties or lefties.
Without the Morrison disaster for context, fans would probably be more excited. But even with that context, it still seems like a sound move.
You can argue the Twins already have an even younger and even cheaper version of Cron on the roster in Tyler Austin, but I would think there is room for both guys (as long as it’s not at the expense of Willians Astudillo. That’s where I draw the line).