The Tampa Bay Rays were reportedly in the market to sign a new first baseman, and they have signed a familiar face to the organization.
With Kendrys Morales, Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds as some of the best alternatives in the free agent market, the Rays have decided to return James Loney on a three-year-deal. Loney’s deal was constantly linked with a return to the Rays, and the two sides have finally struck a deal worth $21 million, including a $5 million bonus. Now the 29-year-old will be under Tampa Bay’s control until the 2016 campaign.
It’s a solid move for a team that’s on verge of contending like the Rays as they don’t have many holes in the lineup and have decided to fill the void at first with a player that’s already proven in the division. Loney is coming off a good year where he hit .299/.348/.430 with 18 HR in 2013, a clear upgrade over his previous four-year span where he only had a .276/.333/.399 slash line.
Loney is clearly not the prototypical first baseman in the sense that instead of the raw power that’s typically expected at the position, he has a solid hit tool that allows him to hit for average on a consistent basis. Even though the Rays are clearly benefited by his arrival they aren’t the only team who will have an impact after this move.
With Loney off the board, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers will need to continue their pursuit for a first baseman. And with few reliable options in free agency, New York Mets’ Ike Davis can heat up his market as he’s been reportedly shopped by the organization.
It remains to be seen what will happen as the free agent crop is particularly thin at the position, but it’s clear that the Rays made a solid move adding an experienced player in Loney that will definitely give the team some stability at first base.