CJ Cron’s push to make Red Sox roster doesn’t bode well for former top prospect

Pittsburgh Pirates v Boston Red Sox
Pittsburgh Pirates v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox signed CJ Cron to a minor league deal late in the offseason. The 34-year-old is putting his best foot forward in camp to try and make the Opening Day roster as an infield depth option.

Cron has been working on staying healthy to keep up in a program filled to the brim with young infield talent — he was sidelined for quite a bit of the 2023 season while dealing with back pain that has been hampering his swing.

But the Sox have another infield depth player already trying to crack the roster he's been itching to make for years. Bobby Dalbec is hoping to be an impact player in his age-29 season.

As Cron is working his way up to being healthy enough to play his best consistently, Dalbec is coming into his own in the Grapefruit League. Dalbec homered in back-to-back games against the Orioles and Braves and he's been getting on base at a higher clip.

Dalbec may have a leg up on Cron in the Opening Day roster race solely based on how many games the two have played. Dalbec has been ready to go all spring and he's made 16 appearances for the Sox while Cron has only played five times, in part due to Boston's late acquisition of the veteran. Boston also kept Cron sidelined in his early days with the club to ensure he was healthy before diving into action.

The Bobby Dalbec debate continues as CJ Cron fights for a spot on the Red Sox roster

It may also be possible for Dalbec and Cron to make the roster together. The Red Sox have recently been giving Dalbec reps in the outfield to try and increase his defensive versatility. Rob Refsnyder has been sidelined due to a fractured toe, and he'll be out for a while. His absence means that Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela are likely to make the Opening Day roster as outfielders, and Dalbec could accompany them as a backup. Dalbec's potential as an outfielder could open the door for Cron to play as Triston Casas' backup.

Dalbec has just one minor-league option left and it's in his best interest to make the big league roster this year more than ever, especially because Boston tried to shop him at the 2023 trade deadline. His best positions are ones that Cron could also fill, and the Sox already have multiple younger utility infielders fighting for positions themselves.

Manager Alex Cora has expressed his confidence in Dalbec's ability to make the team this season. He could deliver some of the right-handed power the Red Sox hunted for this winter, but a healthy Cron could do the same — the veteran averages 29 home runs per 162 games played.

If Dalbec doesn't make the major-league roster this spring, the Sox should look to trade him. Other clubs would have a better use for his skill set than the Red Sox do with their farm full of infield prospects.

But there's still a real possibility Boston gets good use out of Dalbec this year. If Cron has success in the Grapefruit League and Dalbec can use his newfound defensive versatility to his benefit, the Red Sox may be able to find a place for both righty sluggers.

More Red Sox reads: