Jayson Stark of ESPN has reported that James Loney is emerging as the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ top choice at first base. He also points out that they have contacted the Toronto Blue Jays about Adam Lind and the Texas Rangers about Mitch Moreland. Lind is expendable for the Blue Jays because they have Edwin Encarnacion, and Moreland is available from the Rangers because they acquired Prince Fielder. Loney seems like the best fit for the Bucs.
Loney had a very good season in 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 598 plate appearances, he hit .299/.348/.430 with a 118 wRC+. The first baseman has always been an above-average contact hitter, striking out in just 12.3 percent of his career plate appearances and hitting for a career .285 batting average. The only downside with Loney is that he doesn’t hit for a lot of power.
Lind had a great offensive season last year. In 521 plate appearances, Lind hit .288/.357/.497 with a .854 OPS and 23 home runs for the Blue Jays. He would fit great in a potential platoon with current Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Lind hit for a .924 OPS with a 151 wRC+ against right-handed pitching in 2013, but struggles against lefties.
Moreland is hopefully a Plan C or D for the Pirates. He is a career .253/.318/.440 hitter in 1,560 plate appearances. Last season, Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 with 23 home runs.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Loney is seeking something in the ballpark of three years and $30 million. John Perrotto from USA Today Sports and the Beaver County Times says the Pirates view Loney as a two-year, $16 million type of player. The two sides clearly view Loney differently, but considering that Justin Morneau got two years and $13 million on Tuesday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Loney get his preferred contract.