Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: First Baseman C.J. Cron

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 07: C.J. Cron #26 of the Detroit Tigers hits a solo home run during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 7, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 07: C.J. Cron #26 of the Detroit Tigers hits a solo home run during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 7, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could use a platon first baseman for Colin Moran and C.J. Cron could provide power from the right side of the plate.

Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates used a tandem of Josh Bell and Colin Moran at first base and designated hitter. Offensively, Moran had a career best year while Bell put up yet another inconsistent season. If the designated hitter returns, then Colin Moran will likely see most of the time at first base.

Defensively, Moran held his own in his first extended time at the position, but he has consistently hit right handed pitching much better than left handed pitching. Last season, he had a .254/.340/.516 line and 128 wRC+ against righties, comapred to a .231/.286/.365 line and 76 wRC+ against southpaws.

This isn’t anything new for Moran. When he was primarily a third baseman, he split time with David Freese in 2018. The Pittsburgh Pirates really need to find a bat who hits left handers to pair with Moran. Recently DFA’d former first-round pick Will Craig has reverse splits as well as Hunter Owen who was left unprotected to the Rule 5 Draft. One option the Pirates could turn to in the free agent market is slugger C.J. Cron.

Last season, Cron came out of the gates swinging with the Detroit Tigers until a knee injury kept him out for the rest of the season. However, through the 52 plate appearances Cron did get, he had eight hits and seven went for extra bases (four home runs, three doubles). He also drew nine walks. Between 2018 and 2019 with the Rays and Twins, Cron posted a .253/.317/.482 line, blasting 55 long balls, including 30 with the Rays in 2018, while having a 113 wRC+ and .228 isolated slugging percentage.

Cron would also benefit from seeing a platoon. Between these two years, the first baseman had a 110 and 78 against right handed pitching. However when he faced southpaws, his wRC+ was an outstanding 153 and 160. Cron was simply one of the best when it came to facing left handers. He was on par with Mike Trout (161 wRC+ vs LHP) in 2019 and Nelson Cruz (152 wRC+ vs LHP) in 2018.

Having a bat like Cron would definitely help the Pirates. Last season, the team ranked last in the MLB in slugging percentage, tied with the Cardinals for last place in isolated slugging, and third to last in home run total. He would also be a good bat to have in the clutch. In the five seasons he’s had with at least 30 plate appearances in high leverage situations, he’s had a wRC+ of at least 130 three different times.

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Defensively, Cron has been a plus first baseman. Since 2016, Cron has +11 DRS, a 1.3 UZR/150 and 4.3 range runs above average in 3140.2 innings. He hasn’t ranked as a well below average defender since the 2015 season. Though he has seen a decent amount of time at designated hitter, Cron, like many first basemen, isn’t there simply because of his bat.

Cron would make a good platoon mate for Moran. It would also provide some pop that the Pittsburgh Pirates were missing in 2020.

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