Entering the season, Cron was a popular trade candidate once the Angels signed Luis Valbuena, as it was reported that Valbuena would spend quite a bit of time at first base. The 27-year-old Cron, though, injured his left foot late in Spring Training and has hit poorly in 90 plate appearances since being activated: .232/.281/.305 with just one homer (a grand slam in yesterday’s game).
[Related: Updated Los Angeles Angels depth chart]
Slow start notwithstanding, Cron’s demotion comes as a mild surprise. He spent the entire 2016 season on the Angels’ Major League roster and hasn’t been optioned to the minors since early June of the 2015 campaign. And from the time of his recall from that most recent Triple-A stint through the end of the 2016 season, Cron slashed an impressive .281/.325/.481 with 31 long balls over the life of 735 Major League plate appearances. While that’s not quite elite production, it’s considerably better than the league average (121 wRC+).
From a service time vantage point, however, the move isn’t likely to impact Cron one way or another. He entered the year with two years, 110 days of Major League service time, meaning he needed just 62 days in the Majors to reach his third full year of service, thereby keeping him on track to reach free agency following the 2020 season. While he hasn’t quite reached the requisite 62 days, he needs just 12 more days of service time in order to do so. Even if Cron were to spend the bulk of the season in Triple-A, he’d still accrue those final 12 days as a September call-up, so the only real way this would delay his free agency would be if he were to incur a season-ending injury in the minors and finish out the year on the disabled list.
With Cron in the minors and Yunel Escobar on the disabled list, it seems likely that Valbuena will spend a considerable amount of time at third base, with Jefry Marte handling duties at first base. Albert Pujols could see a bit of action at first as well, though he’s played in the field just twice in 40 games this season, so the team doesn’t appear to view him as a regular option there.