It seems that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been napping over the past month as there have been very few rumors involving the team. However, there was an interesting nugget of news when Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney told Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune that the Pirates, as well as the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, all made him offers similar to the one the Rays eventually signed him for.
The Rays ended up signing Loney to a three-year, $21 million deal, meaning the Pirates, Astros and Brewers were all probably in the three-year, $20 million range. Ultimately, it seemed Loney wanted to return to the Rays, so even if the trio of teams that were competing for him, he probably would have signed with the Rays anyway.
To lure him from the Rays, another team would probably have had to give him an extra year and some more money. For a player of Loney’s caliber, that just wouldn’t be worth it.
Loney is a very useful player to have, but for the Pirates to offer him a three-year, $21 million deal is sort of surprising. He would have been one of the highest-paid players on their roster. The lefty-hitting first baseman hit for a .299/.348/.430 slash line with a 118 wRC+ over 598 plate appearances in 2013 with the Rays. He doesn’t bring a lot of home runs to an offense, but he is a doubles hitter that gets on base at a decent rate and doesn’t strike out all that much.
Along with being a great contact hitter, Loney is also an above-average defender at first base. There weren’t a lot of good options this offseason at first base for Pittsburgh, and Loney was the second-best choice behind Mike Napoli. Now that both are off the market, the Pirates will have to look elsewhere to find their 2014 first baseman.