Jake Cronenworth joins the chosen few

Padres Jake Cronenworth

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The San Diego Padres have reached heights in payroll never imagined in the franchise’s history and are currently ranked third in team payroll ($176.820,454) by sportrac.com behind the New York Mets and Yankees. On April 1st, Jake Cronenworth joined teammates Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Xander Bogaerts in accepting a long-term contract. The Padres will pay Cronenworth  $80 million over seven years.

“The extension begins next year and will include a $2 million signing bonus and $7 million next year, which escalates to $12 million for the last five seasons,” manager Bob Melvin told the media. “Everybody in the organization feels that this is not a brief thing where payroll’s up, and you break it down after a year or two. It means that the owner and the general manager are committed to putting a group together here that not only wants to win but sustained winning.”

“He (Cronenworth) works as hard as anyone here,” Melvin went on to say. “He’s driven always to make himself better. He’s a team guy. He’ll play anywhere you want…

Melvin wasn’t alone in his high praise for Cronenworth. Owner Peter Seidler spoke with his wallet, and glowing endorsements came from multiple teammates and the president of baseball operations, A.J. Preller.

“We wanted to make sure he was here hopefully for the rest of his career, honestly,” Preller said. “He’s the epitome of what we’re looking for in a Padre player. His love of the game is second to none in our organization…”

He went on to praise Cronenworth’s work ethic and importance as a vital part of the team… “I know Jake is a guy we wanted to reward.”

More than a dozen of Cronenworth’s teammates showed up at the Padres’ press conference announcing the extension. They also had high praise for their teammate.

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Third baseman Manny Machado proclaimed that “This isn’t just cool. It’s (expletive) awesome…I couldn’t be happier—maybe more than his family—just because I know who he is. I know what he’s about. And no one deserves it more than that kid. He works his butt off, and he does everything the right way.”

Trent Grisham, the Padres’ center fielder, also heralded the move emphasizing the importance of “a guy that just shows up every day… He truly loves the game. To have that much passion about it, care that much, to see it get rewarded after hours and hours and years and years of hard work. It makes you smile.”

When Cronenworth first arrived in San Diego, he and Tommy Pham were relative unknowns acquired in December 2019 in return for Xavier Edwards, Hunter Renfroe, and a player to be named later. Since then, he’s appeared in 368 games with a batting line of .254/.336/.428/.764 OPS+ 117, WAR 9.6. FanGraphs describes Cronenworth as “a well-rounded lefty bat.”

Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015 in the second round out of the University of Michigan,  he started his pro career with the Hudson Valley Renegades. In college, Cronenworth had been a two-way player, pitching and playing in the infield.

Padres Jake Cronenworth
Credit: Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

In 2019, he took the mound for the first time in pro ball. Overall, he gave up no runs in 7.1 scoreless innings and struck out nine.

On July 28, 2020, after the COVID-19 shutdown, he joined the Padres and got his first hit and RBI against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After that, Cronenworth ditched the pitching and concentrated on being an infielder. His chance came when first baseman Eric Hosmer was sidelined with a gastrointestinal bug. He had to borrow a proper glove and played seven of ten games, impressing the brass with a batting average of .360. From then on, Cronenworth became a regular in the lineup.

In August, he received the National League Rooky of the Month award after batting .356 in 31 games with 16 extra-base hits. He came in second behind the Milwaukee Brewers’ Devin Williams in voting for NL Rookie of the Year.

The following year, Cronenworth was named as a reserve for the All-Star game, and on July 16th, and he became just the third Padre to hit for the cycle. He finished the year batting .266/.340/.460/.800, OPS+122, with 71 RBI and 21 home runs.  Last year, the Padre offense, including Cronenworth, struggled mightily. He batted .239/.332/.390 while contending with injuries but still led the team in games played at 158.

Cronenworth begins this crucial 2023 season with added confidence. He’s gone from a reserve to a player valued by the front office, the manager and coaches, and his teammates.

“If you look at the core group of guys…,” Cronenworth recently told reporters. “I don’t think you’d ask for a better group to stay together for a long period of time. It’s a pretty special organization and a special group of guys…I think it’s just the dedication, obviously, from Peter (Seidler) and his family to put us in the best position along with A.J. (Preller) and the group. Things are looking really good in San Diego..”

Jake Cronenworth has proven his worth and importance as a Padre. Since he joined the team in 2020, he has garnered 10.5 bWAR, the tenth highest in Major League Baseball at that time. He’s convinced that “things are looking really good in San Diego.”

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