Cron, who will turn 29 in January, was somewhat of a middling part-time player prior to 2018, having hit double-digit homers in each of his four seasons but never having posted an OPS over .800 — a sign of inadequacy in today’s game for a player who is limited to first base and DH. Cron made major strides after being dealt to the Rays this year, though, posting career highs in home runs (30), RBI (74), slugging percentage (.493) and OPS (.816) while leading qualifying Rays hitters with a 123 OPS+ (23 percent above league average).
Evidently that wasn’t enough to justify the $5.2 million Cron is projected to earn (via MLB Trade Rumors) as an arbitration-eligible player this winter, though. The Rays, who are notorious for moving on from players, regardless of talent level, as they get into their arbitration years, designated Cron for assignment last week as they added prospects to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. They’ll presumably roll with one or a combination of Jake Bauers and Ji-man Choi at first base next year, though they obviously have the entire winter to seek an affordable external upgrade.
Though they’ve already subtracted first basemen Joe Mauer and Logan Morrison, the Twins still have Tyler Austin, the slugging first baseman who was acquired in last summer’s Lance Lynn trade and hit 17 homers in 244 MLB at-bats in 2018, and Miguel Sano, who is still capable of playing third base but really should probably be a first baseman or DH going forward. It’s not a given that either of those players will fit into Minnesota’s everyday lineup in 2019, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Twins juggle Cron, Austin, Sano, and whoever else they might acquire throughout the remainder of the offseason.