DETROIT -- C.J. Cron is embarking on his fourth team in as many seasons. Unlike the last couple, the Tigers are his choice.
What meant a lot to him in his first time at free agency was that he was the Tigers’ choice to help them out of their rebuilding low point.
“I think the thing that stuck out to me the most was how much they wanted me,” Cron said on a Monday afternoon conference call. “They were on me from the get-go. Their persistence never stopped. Anytime a team wants you that bad, it feels good.
“They wanted me to come over and help them take that step in the next direction. I’m definitely down for that.”
“I was kinda shocked,” he said. “Schoopy is a good friend of mine. He's an awesome teammate and a great player.”
Like Cron, the Tigers were on Schoop’s radar as a potential destination from the start of the offseason. Also like Cron, the chance to set the culture was a big deal to him.
“We have really good talent,” Schoop said. “I think we might be a surprise because we have some good guys. It's just a matter of if we can put it together in Spring Training and help each other out.”
With the dual signings, the Tigers hope they’re starting an upward trajectory after 114 losses in 2019, second most in the franchise’s 119-year history.
“If everybody wants to fight for everybody, we're going to win some ballgames,” Schoop said.
Schoop and Cron became teammates last year in Minnesota, having arrived from different ends of the American League East. The Twins claimed Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay, where Cron had hit 30 homers for a 90-win Rays team before being designated for assignment. Schoop was a free agent, having been traded by the Orioles the previous summer and then non-tendered by the Brewers.
The pair helped the Twins rebound from 84 losses in 2018 to 101 wins this past season, earning Minnesota its first AL Central title since 2010. Both players eventually found themselves on the open market -- Cron non-tendered, Schoop a free agent -- as the Twins made way for their young talent.
The Tigers moved in, hoping the duo can have an impact on their increasingly young roster.
“That was their main message,” Cron said. “I think Detroit is ready for better things. They want to create a competitive atmosphere and I want to be a part of that."
At the very least, they should help create a more competitive lineup. Cron hit 25 home runs last season to go with a .253 batting average and .780 OPS. His 1.020 OPS off left-handed pitching ranked 10th-best among AL hitters, according to the Bill James Handbook.
Cron should create a better atmosphere amongst Tigers pitchers: He hit seven home runs off Detroit last season, three off new teammate Matthew Boyd.
The 28-year-old Schoop put up similar numbers to Cron, batting .256 with 23 homers, 59 RBIs and a .777 OPS in 121 games. Much of his damage came away from Target Field; he batted .266 with 16 homers and an .836 OPS in 62 games on the road.
Neither should have to worry about being supplanted by prospects anytime soon. The Tigers have no big league prospects at first base in the system, and Miguel Cabrera is expected to be a designated hitter almost exclusively after injuries hampered him most of last summer. Spencer Torkelson could be on a fast track if Detroit selects the Arizona State slugger with the first overall pick in next summer’s MLB Draft.
Likewise, the Tigers have no set plan at second base, though No. 11 prospect Willi Castro could end up there eventually if the organization decides to move him from shortstop.
“Being able to show up to the ballpark and play every day is something you strive for as a competitor,” Cron said. “I think the opportunity for me and the opportunity for the Tigers, it's going to benefit both of us and I'm excited to be a part of it.”