Even though the San Diego Padres just traded Juan Soto, they could look to move infielder Jake Cronenworth. Cronenworth’s 2023 season was nothing to be proud of. In 552 plate appearances, Cronenworth batted just .229/.319/.378 with a .301 wOBA, and 92 wRC+. Cronenworth still had a solid 18.6% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate but hit for very little power and had an ISO of just .148.
But while his 2023 season was unimpressive, he was one of the best second basemen in the league from 2020-2022. In these three seasons, Cronenworth batted .256/.338/.431 with a .333 wOBA, and 115 wRC+. He only struck out 16.5% of the time with a quality 9.5% walk rate. Cronenworth had a .175 isolated slugging percentage, averaging about 17 home runs per 150 games. In this three-season stretch, Cronenworth had the 6th highest wRC+ and was only surpassed by Marcus Semien and Jose Altuve in fWAR. That means he led all National League second basemen in fWAR.
Cronenworth’s defense at second base has consistently been above average to plus at the position. In 2595.2 innings at second base, he has +8 defensive runs saved and +8 outs above average. Keep in mind he has bounced between second base, first base, and shortstop. However, second base is easily his best position. He hits the best and fields the best when he’s regularly playing second.
Cronenworth is also an affordable player who could be a stalwart in any infield. Next year, he is owed just $7,285,714 next year, then $11,285,715 in 2025, and is then paid $12,285,714 each season from 2026 through 2030. Cronenworth has the potential to put up +3-4 WAR each of those seasons.
Cronenworth would be a great fit for the Pirates. They need someone who can handle the right side of the infield. Putting Cronenworth at second base, Triolo at first base, with Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes on the left side of the infield would give the Pirates one of, if not the best defensive four INFs in baseball next season. Cronenworth is affordable, money-wise, and for what he could produce, it could be a massive bargain for the rest of the decade, too.