Twins first baseman C.J. Cron played through a thumb injury for much of the season’s second half, twice landing on the injured list, and he’ll now seek an outside opinion on the matter, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey revealed to reporters (link via Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). “There could be a potential for a procedure to help alleviate some of the stuff he’s been dealing with,” Falvey said.
Cron, 30 in January, posted a solid .266/.326/.495 slash with 17 homers through 77 games prior to the All-Star break. That production cratered as his thumb troubles cropped up, however; he hit just .229/.280/.420 in the second half as his walk rate nearly halved (from 6.9 percent to 3.6 percent) and his strikeout rate spiked (from 19.3 percent to 25.6 percent). In all, Cron’s first season with the Twins resulted in a .253/.311/.469 slash with 25 home runs. That was only a hair better than league-average production by measure of both wRC+ (101) and OPS+ (103) in 2019’s heightened offensive environment.
Cron’s health will be of particular interest given that he’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to receive a raise from this year’s $4.8MM salary up to $7.7MM in 2020. That’s a relatively steep price to pay a first baseman coming off league-average offensive output, although perhaps the Twins are confident that better health would’ve kept Cron productive and led to a second consecutive 30-homer season.
Still, the Rays cut Cron loose and ran him through outright waivers a year ago, when he had multiple seasons of club control remaining and was fresh off a .253/.323/.493 season (123 wRC+ and OPS+). Minnesota was 12th in waiver priority when Cron was claimed, meaning more than a third of the league was uninterested in picking up two years of control over him at a time when his projected arbitration salary was $5.2MM. If Cron was a borderline call for clubs at that point, that’s all the more true now with just one year of control remaining, another raise in the offing, a barking thumb and a year of diminished offense. Perhaps the two sides will cut some kind of deal at a lower price prior to the tender deadline, but Cron seems like a potential non-tender candidate this winter.