FORT MYERS — Former Rays slugger C.J. Cron said that being designated for assignment by Tampa Bay over the offseason came as a surprise, but he realized it wasn’t the first time the organization abruptly cut ties with one of its top power bats.
Cron hit a career-high 30 homers and an .816 OPS last year in his only season with the Rays as a first baseman and designated hitter, but when Jake Bauers was promoted from Triple-A in June, it cut into Cron's time at first.
Instead of paying Cron what was projected to be a hefty raise in his second year of arbitration, the Rays designated Cron for assignment in late November. He was claimed by the Twins, who avoided arbitration when Cron by agreeing to a $4.8-million deal before the non-tender deadline. He made just $2.3 million in 2018, so he more than doubled his salary over last year’s
“I guess kind of,” Cron said Thursday in Fort Myers when asked whether the move was a surprise. “But they’ve been known to do that kind of stuff in the past, so I knew it was definitely possible. So I guess it didn’t take me completely by surprise. But it is what it is.”
Even though he put up impressive power numbers, Cron's 25.9-percent strikeout rate ranked ninth-highest in the American League, and by comparison, his 6.6-percent walk rate was 16th-lowest in the league. Even though the Rays now have a opening at first base after trading Bauers to the Indians, they are a team that values flexibility, and Cron was limited defensively.
The Rays really haven’t replaced Cron’s power numbers in the offseason, and several players -- including newcomer Yandy Diaz, Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe -- will compete for playing time at first this spring.
So why didn't the move completely miff Cron?
“They DFA’d [Corey] Dickerson the year before, which was a corresponding move when I got traded over,” Cron said, referring to the team’s move to designate and then trade outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Pirates last February. "And he was an all-star a year before. He hit 30 homers.
"So I don't know why it is the way is is over there, but it is. I guess I kind of didn't expect it but I wasn't shocked either."
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected]. Follow @EddieInTheYard.