Will the Rockies deal 'experienced' Cron?

July 25th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- With the Trade Deadline approaching, a who’s who of scouts arrived early at Dodger Stadium with eyes on Rockies starter Jon Gray, shortstop Trevor Story and relief pitchers Mychal Givens and Daniel Bard -- among others.

Is right-handed-hitting first baseman C.J. Cron among the others?

Through 81 games going into his start on Sunday, Cron, 31, slashed .246/.359/.465 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs. Playing on his fifth team, Cron has been serviceable throughout his career as a first baseman and designated hitter. Though he had a few rough plays early with the Rox, his first National League team, he has been demonstrably better.

Such a player could at the very least bring back depth for the Minor League system. But how the Rockies view him could be a window into how they view themselves.

It’s not as big a question as Gray, with the Rockies needing to decide if they can get enough to part with a member of a rotation as solid as any in club history. But Cron is vexing. If other trades and free agency over the winter improve the upper-level positional talent, are they better off holding onto Cron and not creating a hole at first base? Or do the Rockies trade him to improve their talent and depth, and find another way to deal with the experience piece?

Cron signed a Minor League contract during the offseason that became a $1 million Major League deal -- economical for a team watching its payroll. Could the Rockies go back to him next year, the way they did with Mark Reynolds in 2016, '17 and '19?

The Rockies trended young during Reynolds’ time, but they recognized that an experienced player can provide information that could help others shorten their learning curve -- even if a less experienced one may post similar numbers. The 2017 Rockies felt Reynolds, on a modest contract, and Ian Desmond, on a way bigger one, made intangible impacts.

Before going any further, acting manager Mark Redmond -- with Bud Black due back soon from MLB COVID and contact tracing protocol -- does not make decisions on trades. But he could discuss Cron’s value to the current Rockies.

“He’s a professional hitter,” Redmond said. “He’s an experienced hitter. He’s got some huge hits and driven in a bunch of runs. And he walks -- I mean, in big situations. He stays within himself, within his strike zone. It’s always nice to have a guy who can put it in the seats, but then take a walk off a tough pitcher.

“His defense has gotten better and better over the course of the year. He’s worked very hard with [third-base coach and infield instructor] Stu Cole, and that’s been good to see.”

The 2021 Rockies are clearly not contenders. The impact of not just Cron, but left-handed-hitting Matt Adams, and relievers Givens, Bard and Jhoulys Chacín aren’t going to make difference in a game that puts the team into the postseason. But do the younger players gain knowledge from a peer that may reach him differently than the same information coming from a coach or non-player?

It’s a question teams around baseball ask, as do veteran players.

“He gives us a guy on our club with experience, and he’s been with a bunch of different teams,” Redmond said. “He’s seen a lot, and he’s seen it done a lot of different ways. It’s good to have guys like that -- good teammates for our younger guys to talk to and say, ‘Hey, man, have you seen this pitcher? Have you seen this situation?’”