A four-year Angels career marked mostly by unrealized potential came to an abrupt end Saturday night when first baseman C.J. Cron, a first-round pick out of Utah in 2011, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later.
Cron, 28, reached the big leagues in 2014 but spent parts of the last four seasons in the minor leagues. He was out of options this spring, meaning he would have to clear waivers for the team to send him back to triple-A Salt Lake.
With a lighter, leaner and healthier Albert Pujols expected to play more first base this season so that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani can start at designated hitter two or three times a week, and with the left-handed-hitting Luis Valbuena sharing time with Pujols, Cron figured to have a reduced role.
And with the Angels expected to carry 13 pitchers and only three bench players, they can’t afford to carry two right-handed-hitting first basemen who can’t play another defensive position. Valbuena will back up Zack Cozart at third base.
“With the construction of our roster and the personnel we have in place, we have to place a premium on flexibility and maneuverability within our position-player group,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “That prompted us to make the move at this time.”
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Cron has prodigious power, but he never hit more than 16 home runs or drove in more than 69 runs in any of his four seasons.
He is a career .262 hitter with 59 homers and 213 RBIs in 408 games, but his subpar .307 on-base percentage didn’t fit with the team’s emphasis on plate discipline under Eppler. Cron struck out 314 times and walked only 73 times in 1,475 career plate appearances.
Cron worked out at the team’s spring-training complex with right fielder Kole Calhoun all winter and appeared to be in excellent shape as he prepared to report with position players on Sunday.
“C.J. has been nothing but professional and the consummate team player here,” Eppler said. “He cares about the game and his teammates. We wish him well as he embarks on the rest of his career.”
Eppler said the Angels have a pool of Rays players they are considering for the deal, but it will not be Corey Dickerson, who was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay Saturday. Neither will it be pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who was traded to the Minnesota Twins later Saturday night.