Colorado Rockies spring training: The Bud Black-C.J. Cron connection

When C.J. Cron was inked to a minor league deal recently by the Colorado Rockies, manager Bud Black knew exactly what he was getting with the power-hitting first baseman.

Sure, a lot of time has passed since the 2016 baseball season, but that’s the point in time when the paths of Black and Cron crossed extensively, and it forms a framework for their relationship as Rockies spring training gets underway. In that year, Cron was in his third season with the Angels while Black was brought into the Angels front office as a special assistant to their new general manager, Billy Eppler.

It was Black’s second stint with the Angels after serving as the team’s pitching coach for seven seasons. He had a first-hand view of Cron’s 2016 campaign that saw him post a 116 OPS+ while driving in 69 runs in what would be his most productive all-around season with the Angels.

Following the 2017 season with the Angels, Cron would go on to smash in Tampa Bay and Minnesota (a combined 55 homers in those two seasons) before an injury-abbreviated stint in Detroit last year. Now Cron enters his first season as a potential member of a National League squad, signing a deal with the Rockies just before spring training began.

“C.J. Cron, for me, he’s an exciting sign,” Black told reporters, including Rox Pile, earlier this week. “You know, last year, he got banged up early and had four homers and put up some numbers early, but only had 50 at-bats (actually 52 plate appearances, 42 at-bats) with the Tigers. But look up his stats from previous years in Minnesota and in Tampa.”

So what can C.J. Cron bring to the Colorado Rockies lineup in 2021?

Cron will compete not only for a roster spot, but also for playing time with incumbent Josh Fuentes and potentially Greg Bird, a guy with Major League experience who was also signed to a minor league deal just before spring training launched. The versatile Ryan McMahon, expected to be one of the main players to man the hot corner in the absence of Nolan Arenado, could also see time at first this season.

With the position truly up for grabs, Cron brings the benefit of not only a power-hitting resume (something desperately needed by a Rockies lineup looking for some additional pop) but also a manager who has seen what he can contribute to a team before.

“I knew him (Cron) in ’16 when I was with the Angels for the one season, working as a front office guy,” Black said. “He’s a guy that can bring something. He can bring some power at 31 years old. He’s exciting for our coaching staff and for our front office. That was a good sign.”