Cron’s proof is in the trade

Move to Rays jus­ti­fies ex-An­gel’s be­lief he could be every­day player.

Tampa Bay Times - - Sports - Marc Topkin can be reached at mtop­kin@tam­pabay.com. Fol­low @TBTimes_Rays.

ANA­HEIM, Calif. — C.J. Cron said all the right things about how ex­cited he was to re­turn with his new Rays team this week­end to Ana­heim, where he spent his first four sea­sons play­ing for the An­gels.

How the An­gels were the group that gave him the chance to ful­fill his dream af­ter mak­ing him a firstround draft pick in 2011.

How he got to meet and work along­side so many good peo­ple, in­clud­ing su­per­star team­mates Al­bert Pu­jols and Mike Trout. How he en­joyed the at­mos­phere at An­gel Sta­dium and hav­ing fam­ily nearby.

And most right of all, that he wished he would have got­ten the op­por­tu­nity to play more.

“I think ev­ery player wants the op­por­tu­nity to prove them­selves and prove they can play ev­ery day,” Cron said be­fore Thurs­day’s game with the An­gels. “There were def­i­nitely stretches where I thought that I did pretty well when­ever some­body got hurt for the month, two months, when I got to play ev­ery day, but I guess it just wasn’t enough. So they de­cided to go a dif­fer­ent way, and that was their de­ci­sion.”

That dif­fer­ent way is what led to Cron, 28, be­ing traded to the Rays, which has worked out well given how he has pro­duced with the chance to play pretty much ev­ery day at ei­ther DH or first base. We’ll get back to that pro­duc­tion in a few para­graphs.

To clar­ify, Cron is not sug­gest­ing he should have played ahead of Pu­jols, the fu­ture Coop­er­stowner whose spot in the lineup at ei­ther first or DH was go­ing to be pred­i­cated on his health, leav­ing Cron in essence com­pet­ing for time at which­ever spot Pu­jols wasn’t play­ing, at least when Cron wasn’t be­ing sent back to Triple A.

“Ob­vi­ously (Pu­jols) is go­ing to play over me ev­ery day of the week, and de­servedly so,” Cron said. “But that wasn’t the rea­son why I didn’t play ev­ery day.”

His point is more about not get­ting a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity where or when Pu­jols wasn’t play­ing, and he has one.

When Cron was sit­ting or be­ing sent back to the mi­nors (twice in 2014, ’16 and ’17), the An­gels were giv­ing at-bats at first and/or DH to the likes of Je­fry Marte, Ji-Man Choi and Luis Val­buena, and look­ing at other op­tions given man­ager Mike Scios­cia’s known pref­er­ence for vet­er­ans.

Yet when Cron got the op­por­tu­nity, he seemed to pro­duce, and some­what con­sis­tently, de­spite the con­stant shut­tling and spo­radic play­ing time.

He had eight homers in his first 40 games as a 2014 rookie and 11 to­tal, with a .256 av­er­age and .739 OPS over three stints in the ma­jors. Then over the past three sea­sons, he had 16 homers each time, with av­er­ages/OPS of .262/.739, .278/.792 (in a ca­reer­high 116 games, with a six-week dis­abled-list stint for a bro­ken hand) and .248/.741, though he did strike out a lot.

The Rays were aware of what he had done and in­trigued by what he could do with reg­u­lar play­ing time. And with the An­gels hav­ing even more of a log­jam this spring in need­ing to get DH at-bats for two-way sen­sa­tion Sho­hei Oh­tani and with Cron out of op­tions, the Rays made a move. In a buy-low deal, they gave up just Class A in­fielder Luis Rengifo, whom they’d got­ten from Seat­tle last year in a spare-parts trade of Ryan Gar­ton and Mike Mar­jama.

The Feb. 17 trade for Cron was over­shad­owed by the stun­ning de­ci­sion to des­ig­nate for as­sign­ment 2017 All-Star Corey Dicker- son, a move the Rays cal­cu­lated rightly in that it spurred trade talks lead­ing to a deal with the Pi­rates, but wrongly given how much neg­a­tive re­ac­tion it drew, in­clud­ing in their club­house.

But even in get­ting so lit­tle back — just Class A in­fielder Tris­tan Gray while eat­ing most of re­leased re­liever Daniel Hud­son’s $5.5 mil­lion salary, and see­ing Dick­er­son do well in Pitts­burgh (.318, 5 homers, .870 OPS en­ter­ing Thurs­day) — the Rays saw Cron, who made $2.3 mil­lion to Dick­er­son’s $5.95 mil­lion and was a year fur­ther from free agency, as the ac­tual re­turn.

And he has been quite a hit. Cron walked into An­gel Sta­dium on Thurs­day af­ter lunch with Trout and Kole Cal­houn not know­ing where the vis­it­ing club­house was, but lead­ing the Rays with 10 homers and an .861 OPS, plus a healthy .289 av­er­age and a 22-game streak of reach­ing base.

Though his mates have been giv­ing him good-na­tured rib­bing about his re­turn, and he wasn’t sure how he’d feel, he should be pretty proud of what he has done with the op­por­tu­nity he never got in Ana­heim — com­bin­ing the com­fort of know­ing he’s go­ing to be in the lineup (and def­i­nitely in the ma­jors), the con­fi­dence to make the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments with­out con­se­quence, and the talent to pro­duce at a high level.

His take­away on his time with the An­gels?

“I wish I could have played a lit­tle bit more, but it was good while it lasted.”

MON­ICA HERN­DON | Times

C.J. Cron en­tered Thurs­day lead­ing the Rays with 10 home runs and hit­ting .289.

Rays

MARC TOPKIN

DIRK SHADD | Times

C.J. Cron, showing sup­port for the Light­ning, came to the Rays in a low-risk Fe­bru­ary trade.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.