The Red Sox should trade for Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron
Every team has weaknesses and the trade deadline is the last opportunity for contenders to find external solutions. The Boston Red Sox are playing as well as any team in baseball but if they intend to maintain their spot at the top of the division and make a deep playoff run, they need to find an upgrade at first base.
Red Sox first basemen are 28th in the majors with a .203 batting average while ranking dead-last with a .622 OPS, .269 wOBA and 64 wRC+ this season.
Bobby Dalbec has been the main culprit, hitting .217/.264/.416 in 226 at-bats. The 10 home runs are solid for a rookie but far short of the expectations he set last year when he blasted eight homers in 80 at-bats to begin his career.
Cron was limited to only 13 games last year before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a kneecap injury. The Colorado Rockies took a low-risk chance on him and Cron has responded with a bounce-back campaign, hitting .252/.354/.459 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI.
It’s fair to be skeptical about any player maintaining their offensive production after moving way from Colorado’s Coors Field but Cron has spent the majority of his career in the American League. His career .257 average and .779 OPS are similar to what he’s producing this year for the Rockies.
Cron blasted a career-high 30 home runs in 2018 for the Tampa Bay Rays, playing half his games in their pitcher-friendly park. He followed that with a 25-homer season with the Minnesota Twins. His power certainly isn’t a product of playing in Colorado.
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The sputtering Rockies entered the day 16.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West and appear poised to sell at the trade deadline. While Colorado has flashier names to offer, Cron is the best fit for what the Red Sox need and he can be obtained without surrendering any of their top prospects.
The Rockies scooped up Cron on a minor league deal so his salary won’t be a burden to absorb. He’s a free-agent after the season so there’s little incentive for the Rockies to hang on to him as they slip out of contention. Chaim Bloom tends to prefer trading for players who remain under control beyond this season rather than waste assets on a rental but he should make an exception if the cost is reasonable.
If there’s one factor working against Cron as a potential target, it’s that he bats from the right side. The Red Sox lineup already leans heavy to the right, with Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo the only lefties, plus the switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez. If Boston wants to add a bat at the deadline, they might prefer a lefty to balance the lineup.
A left-handed hitter would make an ideal platoon partner at first base. Dalbec actually fairs adequately against southpaws, batting .268 with a .827 OPS against them this season. He’s dreadful against right-handed pitching (.188 AVG, .597 OPS) so pairing him with a left-handed bat who thrives with the platoon advantage would create a formidable solution at the position.
Cron also has wide platoon splits with significantly better production against lefties. Trading for him would provide the Red Sox with an upgrade at first base but it also essentially means giving up on Dalbec for the remainder of this season since Cron would fill the same role.
Boston will be patient while waiting for a more ideal fit to emerge but keep an eye on Cron once the Rockies inevitably make him available on the trade market. The Red Sox need an upgrade at first base and Cron would undoubtedly be an improvement in the short term.