The Boston Red Sox signed first baseman C.J. Cron to a minor league contract Friday, a move that provides Alex Cora’s lineup with a righthanded power threat that had been a glaring omission from the roster until then.

You may remember Cron from the 2022 trade deadline scuttlebutt. Those were the days when Triston Casas was nothing more than a question mark and Red Sox fans were watching everybody on the team hit the IL except the guy who could always be counted on to strikeout looking or drop a chest-high throw to first when the game was on the line … Bobby Dalbec.

We hoped and prayed back in mid-2022 that Chaim Bloom would save us from Dalbec, that bastion of ineffectiveness and loser-dom, by acquiring Cron or Josh Bell or any non-Dalbecian with a pulse to play first base every day. We ended up with Eric Hosmer, more of a lateral move than anything else, but the season was all but over by then anyway. Cron finished 2022 with 29 home runs, 102 RBI, 28 doubles, and a .783 OPS in 575 at-bats. It was his first All Star campaign and his fourth season with 25 or more home runs, which he has achieved with three different teams (Rays, Twins, Rockies).

The 34-year-old Cron took a dip last season due to a back injury that limited him to 71 games with Colorado and Anaheim (12 HR, 37 RBI, 12 doubles, .729 OPS). He’s healthy now by all accounts, and he’s the kind of righty who should be able to pelt balls off and over the Green Monster with regularity.


High Value, Low Price Tag

Considering his resume and the team’s need for righthanded pop, Cron is a steal at $2 million (with the potential to gain $500,000 more in incentives). Pay little attention to the “minor league” designation in his contract. Cron is a XX-B free agent, meaning that if the Red Sox don’t add him to the Opening Day roster, they will have to either release him or shell out $100,000 to keep him in the minors until June 1st. In other words, Cron will be in the Red Sox dugout in Seattle on March 28th.

More important than his price tag is the all-important role he will play on the field. As I wrote two weeks ago, the Red Sox lineup had been extremely lefty-heavy even after Alex Verdugo was replaced with Tyler O’Neil earlier this offseason. Sure, you can trot out a lineup with five or six lefties against a righthanded starting pitcher. But that leaves you really vulnerable in the late innings against any team with quality lefthanded arms in the bullpen. Without a righthanded bat on the bench to counter the Nick Ramirezes, Danny Coulombes, and Colin Poches of the world, you’re way behind the eight-ball when so many of your big sticks hit from the left side of the plate.


Righthanded Pop

That’s where C.J. Cron will be most valuable, in my opinion. Yes, he will be in the starting lineup against the vast majority of lefthanded starting pitchers the Red Sox face. But Cron and his .814 career OPS against lefthanded pitching will be particularly useful as a pinch hitter for Alex Cora to deploy in the late innings against southpaw relievers in place of Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu, Reese McGuire, and perhaps even Masataka Yoshida on occasion. For whatever reason, lefty vs lefty is always an enormous advantage for pitchers. Having a guy like Cron available to come off the bench allows Cora to add an extra layer to his side of the managerial chess match.

Cron is not the type of hitter to strike fear into the hearts of pitcher across the league, but he has the kind of power all pitchers have to respect. He has hit 25 or more home runs in every season in which he has reached 500 at-bats. He’s highly unlikely to reach 500 at-bats in 2024 without long-term injuries to multiple starters, but he’s a significant threat to launch one into the alley or over the fence at any point in any game.


Balancing Act

With six outfielders already on the roster, Adam Duvall was no longer a fit for the Red Sox. C.J. Cron fits the same purpose in the lineup as Duvall, while also plugging a defensive hole that had been vacant until now.

For the first time in over a year, the Red Sox will finally have an offensive attack that is balanced from both sides of the plate. Cron should fit comfortably in the five-hole between Casas and Yoshida against lefthanded starting pitchers. If Cron and Tyler O’Neil can both stay healthy, the Red Sox have the potential to field potent lineups against righties and lefties alike.

vs RHPs

Jarren Duran LF
Rafael Devers 3B
Trevor Story SS
Triston Casas 1B
Masataka Yoshida DH
Vaughn Grissom 2B
Wilyer Abreu RF
Cedanne Rafaela CF
Connor Wong C
RH Pinch Hitters: C.J. Cron, Tyler O’Neil 


vs LHPs

Vaughn Grissom 2B
Rafael Devers 3B
Trevor Story SS
Triston Casas 1B
C.J. Cron DH
Masataka Yoshida LF
Tyler O’Neil RF
Cedanne Rafaela CF
Connor Wong C
LH Pinch Hitters: Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu

Each alignment is capable of serious production with a couple impact bats in reserve to come off the bench in the late innings. Best of all, Bobby Dalbec is nowhere in this picture whatsoever.

The addition of Cron also solves the issue of making sure that there is a suitable backup for every position. There are six outfielders on the roster, one of whom (Rafaela) can also fill in at second base if needed. Pablo Reyes is the prototypical utility infielder, with 36 career games at second base, 31 at third base, and 33 at shortstop. Reese McGuire will back up Connor Wong behind the plate once again, and Cron will man first base whenever Casas needs a day off in the field.


A Complete Offense

We all need to keep our fingers crossed that Devers, Casas, and Cron all enjoy healthy seasons. The Bobby Dalbec Experience seems to be our cross to bear forever, constantly looming over our heads like the city-wrecking ships from Independence Day. If any of those three hits the IL, Red Sox fans should make haste for the nearest bomb shelter.

Until then, I’m pretty optimistic about the Red Sox offense now that Cron has come aboard. He won’t hit 25 home runs, and he won’t hit like Justin Turner did last season. But the Red Sox don’t need him to do either of those things.

They need Story to be the player he once was, they need Yoshida to stay strong all season, and they need Duran, Grissom, Rafaela, and Abreu to show that they are the legitimate big leaguers they’ve indicated that they can be.

Cron and O’Neil just need to keep southpaws honest. They’ve shown that ability before. If they can do it again, the Red Sox will score more than enough runs to be competitive in the A.L. East.

As for getting the opposition to score less runs … um … well …

Excuse me, I have to get my pizza rolls out of the oven.



By Luke

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