Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Colorado Rockies Community!

What If... The Colorado Rockies acquired C.J. Cron earlier?

Drew Creasman Avatar
September 15, 2021

Time. Space. Reality.

It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities…

I am a Colorado Rockies writer. I am your guide to these vast new realities. Follow me and ponder the question… “What If?”

It’s November 26, 2018. And a soon-to-be 29-year old C.J. Cron is signing a new one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins for $4.8 million. There, he will be happy.

Almost a full month later, on December 21, the Colorado Rockies ink Daniel Murphy for what would turn out to be two years and $30 million. There, no one will be happy.

Murphy goes on to put up the two worst seasons of his career as the Colorado club around him dissipates from potential contenders into once-again pretenders.

Things might have been quite different had that month gone differently at the end of 2018. But we need to travel just a bit further back in time to see the truly divergent universe.

Rewind almost a year earlier to just before that campaign.

It’s February, 17, 2018, and the Los Angeles Angels trade Cron to the Tampa Bay Rays for… Luis Rengifo?

Not in this universe. This is our moment of divergence.

Cron instead is traded by an Angels team apparently looking to shed only $2.3 million in salary to the Colorado Rockies who give up someone exactly as good as Luis Rengifo.

It is an odd move that turns some heads at the time because the Colorado club already has an emerging Ryan McMahon at this point, not to mention Ian Desmond signed to a lucrative contract getting time at first.

Desmond had been underwhelming and injured in 2017 to be sure, but in a bold move sold mostly as “for depth” at the time, the Rockies acquired Cron anyway for a bit of insurance.

In a series of events that feel remarkably similar to a 2021 in another timeline, the Cron acquisition isn’t met with a ton of fanfare out of the gate and it isn’t even presumed that he will be the starter.

“Nice bench piece,” seems to be the consensus as he draws favorable comparisons to Jason Giambi of 2009.

As the season wears on, though, and Desmond continues to struggle and McMahon shows he isn’t quite ready to play a major role on a 90+ win team, Cron’s steady presence earns him the gig.

It begins innocuously enough with a lot of walks and good at-bats but by season’s end Cron has slashed .253/.323/.493 with 30 home runs and a Baseball Reference WAR of 2.3.

He becomes the glue in the middle of the lineup that protects Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado who goes on to win MVP with the best stats of his career.

Of course, it helps that this 2018 Rockies team wins 94 regular season games and the National League West ahead of the Dodgers at 91.

With that, they wait at home while the Dodgers and Cubs play each other in a one game playoff to decide who will travel to Denver to begin the NLDS.

The Dodgers (of course) win that game but show up to Coors Field exhausted after a grueling end to the season. Having used their top two pitchers to make the postseason and win the play-in game the Dodgers throw their third-best starter against a well-rested German Marquez.

The Rockies win game one largely because of this and go on to take the series thanks to the home field advantage.

In the NLCS Colorado is beaten by the Milwaukee Brewers (congratulations on the World Series appearance!) in a competitive set.

That offseason, the Rockies resign Cron and DJ LeMahieu to multi-year deals, believing that this core must stay together and that they have enough offensive firepower.

The 2019 season is a major setback, though.

Terrible years from Kyle Freeland and Wade Davis in particular derail most of the first half and have the team teetering on relevance at the trade deadline. They stand pat after a horrible month of July.

Cron’s presence makes the offense better than it otherwise would have been but not enough to overcome the pitching woes and Colorado stumbles to a 75-win season.

While tensions are running high that offseason, there is still a shared belief that a lineup featuring Blackmon, LeMahieu, Story, Arenado, Cron and prospects like David Dahl and Raimel Tapia are going to be able to turn things around.

With all of their money doled out already though, they must simply move forward with what they have.

This is beginning to irritate a certain star third baseman heading into the season but watching Cron hit 30 homers and becoming good friends with him over the years has Arenado keeping those doubts to himself and ready to give it one more run.

March of 2020, a global COVID-19 pandemic hits and the MLB season is reduced to 60 games.

And this is it. These 60 games will determine whether or not this team has a future.

They get off to a 12-3 start thanks to a blisteringly hot Charlie Blackmon and a starting pitching unit that is becoming the best this franchise has ever seen.

Bullpen troubles and a cooling offense slow the team down but not to a halt as Cron’s .346 on-base percentage and .548 slugging lengthen the lineup and delivers much-needed wins in the clutch.

That team goes 34-26 and faces off against the Miami Marlins in the first round of the postseason, dispatching of them relatively easily.

Next they get Atlanta who is as hot and as good as any team in baseball. But the Rockies are the much more experienced team, especially now with this being their third trip to the postseason in four years and their second dance in the second round.

Veteran clutch play from Blackmon, Arenado, and Cron leads the Rockies to a 4-3 series win in their most hard-fought series to date.

Now it’s time for the NLCS and, you guessed it, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Rockies sweep ’em.

And it isn’t especially close.

Riding the momentum of so many emotional games back and forth with Atlanta and given everything this team has been through together, they decimate the Dodgers who are caught totally off guard and unprepared.

The Colorado Rockies head to the 2020 World Series for a match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays as two opposing ideologies face off.

The Rays are the wheelers and dealers and most of the players on this team were on another team a few years ago. The Rockies are almost entirely home grown with a few incredibly important outside additions to the family.

The most important addition, everyone now agrees, has been C.J. Cron and his steady presence in the fifth spot of the order.

The series is tied at two games a piece after excellent pitching highlighted the first four games across the board. Marquez and Freeland are becoming household names.

In Game 5, the Rockies are down by one and have only recorded two hits against Blake Snell but they are getting to the third time in the order and so Kevin Cash uses the Big Book of Numbers to pull Snell out of the game.

Immediately Blackmon ties the game up with a base hit and is driven in for the go-ahead run on a monumental blast by C.J. Cron.

Colorado wins game five and goes on to win the World Series in Game 6.

The national media goes wild, declaring the 2020 season an obvious “asterisk season” and chooses to sell the win as a “cute” and “fun” story while simultaneously suggesting with every breath that this would not have happened in any other year.

But the people of Denver, and Colorado Rockies fans worldwide, pay them no mind and care not about the lack of a parade or any other pomp and circumstance.

“We got ’em,” they say to themselves while falling asleep to Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”

…of the world.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?