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James Loney Rumors
Rays first baseman James Loney is headed to the DL for the next four to six weeks with a broken finger, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. While the 31-year-old has not exactly been tearing things up at the plate, he is a particularly difficult player for Tampa Bay to replace. As Topkin explains, the club’s 40-man roster does not admit of any ready options at Triple-A. That could lead the Rays to look outside the organization, he suggests, with players in DFA limbo (Casey McGehee, Travis Ishikawa), on the open market (Kila Ka’aihue), or possibly available via trade (Garrett Jones) seeming like potential options. Both McGehee and Ishikawa will, presumably, ultimately be exposed to waivers, though both come with significant salary commitments ($4.8MM and $1.1MM, respectively). The Giants could be motivated to strike a deal involving one of those players if Tampa is willing to take on some cash.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Blue Jays star Jose Bautista is still struggling to deal with painful shoulder inflammation, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Bautista says he appreciates the difficulties in lineup construction that the injury has caused, but made clear that he is doing all he can by taking on DH duties. The team’s upcoming interleague stretch and Bautista’s own pain levels were factors in the decision to treat him with a cortisone shot, per the report. It’s an interesting piece that delves into many of the day-to-day matters that have a significant impact on a player over the course of a season, but which often go underappreciated.
- Struggling badly hitting from the right side, Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval is seriously considering facing opposing southpaws from the left side of the box, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. “There’s conversation at various points about that. He’s even initiated it at times,” said manager John Farrell. “But until that change is made, that’s something that certainly will include him in that process.” Certainly, it’s interesting to see player and club contemplating such a move just a few months into a five-year, $95MM contract.
- Joe Kelly and the rest of the Red Sox rotation have all been consistently inconsistent, as Britton writes. The up-and-down performances across the staff have put the club in a tough position, making it difficult to pull the trigger on a move to try another option. “There’s no decision here in this moment,” Farrell said of Kelly’s rotation status. “He’s shown us the ability to go out and work deep in a ballgame. There’s no denying the stuff. It’s a matter of consistent location with his fastball.”
- Top Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy has been scratched from his start today after experiencing stiffness in his right shoulder, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports. While it’s far from clear that there is cause for alarm — the team says it hopes Bundy is simply suffering from tendinitis — Bundy has already been forced to rehab back from Tommy John surgery. Another highly-rated young arm, Hunter Harvey, has dealt with more obviously concerning injury issues. The club’s future hinges in no small part on the health and development of those two players, along with the equally-hyped Kevin Gausman.
The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for southpaw Will Smith was "was coaxed primarily by Aoki's agent to assure more playing time," Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Khris Davis' impressive rookie season put him in line for a starting job in 2014, and with Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez locked into the other two starting outfield spots, Aoki was looking at a reduced role with the Brewers next season.
Here's some more Brewers news from Haudricourt's chat with Brewers GM Doug Melvin…
- Melvin reiterated his stance that the Brewers' lack of major offseason moves is due to the belief that the team will improve simply with the continued development of young players and the returns of suspended or injured stars like Braun or Aramis Ramirez.
- The Brewers pursued James Loney, who instead re-signed with the Rays for a three-year, $21MM contract. "We knew if he had the same deal he was probably going to go back to Tampa," Melvin said. Indeed, Loney said that he chose the Rays' contract over similar offers from not just the Brewers, but also the Pirates and Astros.
- Melvin cited some interest in Justin Morneau, who signed with the Rockies last month, but the GM sounded as if he wasn't particularly enamored with the free agent options at first base. "The list wasn't very good. It's one of those years where the position we needed, there were fewer opportunities to get someone," Melvin said.
- In also noting that the trade market for first baseman was thin, Melvin acknowledged he had at least had discussions with the Rangers and Mariners. "There just aren't available guys. Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [Mitch] Moreland. Seattle is not interested in moving their guys. So, there aren't a lot of choices."
- The Brewers didn't have much available payroll space this offseason but extra money would've been there if the situation warranted. "We haven't increased it that much, but if the right player was there I would go to (team owner) Mark (Attanasio) and say it's the right player," Melvin said. "When it comes to payroll, we're always guarded to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a hole or a bind that we can't get out of two years from now or three years from now. Our payroll will be in a much better position next year in that regard." The Brewers have only $39.1MM committed for 2015 as Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Tom Gorzelanny all come off the books next winter, plus Rickie Weeks seems unlikely to receive the 600 PA he needs this season to trigger his $11.5MM vesting option for 2015.
With an unfavorable TV deal, the Braves are becoming the Rays, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee argues. That's a bit hyperbolic, as Brisbee acknowledges, but the Braves' payroll has fallen from third in the big leagues in 2000 to 16th in 2013, because their payroll hasn't really risen since then, while it has for most other teams. That's a trend that could continue, unless the Braves' new stadium dramatically changes their fortunes. That means they have to rely more on making smart moves than on spending money. Here's more from around the East divisions.
- James Loney says the Rays, Brewers, Pirates and Astros all made him similar offers, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. "I felt [Tampa Bay] was going to be the best option and this is where I wanted to be," Loney says.
- If the Rays keep David Price in 2014, they will have a higher payroll than they had in 2010, when it was $72.8MM, Mooney reports. That's not a sustainable figure in the long term, Rays GM Andrew Friedman says, but the team has a chance to be "great" in 2014 (Twitter links).
- The Orioles are still interested in re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The Orioles could then use him as a backup plan at closer in case Tommy Hunter struggles. Fernando Rodney might cost too much for them, Kubatko suggests.
- Orioles executive Dan Duquette says newly-acquired outfielder Quintin Berry is a strong defensive outfielder and "he's shown good on-base capability, particularly against RH pitching," Kubatko tweets.
- It's not likely the Red Sox will sign or trade a starting pitcher before the beginning of spring training, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Boston currently has a solid set of starting pitching options in Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront, plus Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and others. Lauber's tweet suggests the Red Sox will not attempt to trade someone like Lackey, and they will not sign Masahiro Tanaka.
JANUARY 3rd: The Rays officially announced the deal, tweets Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that Loney gets a $5MM signing bonus, $1MM in 2014, $7MM in 2015, and $8MM in 2016.
DECEMBER 13th: The Rays have reached an agreement with James Loney on a three-year, $21MM contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The deal is pending a physical. ESPN's Buster Olney was the first to report that the Rays were on the verge of an agreement with the Legacy Agency client (also on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that $5MM of that guarantee will come as a signing bonus.
Loney's guarantee is slightly less than the three-year, $27-30MM contract he was recently rumored to be seeking. The 29-year-old still obtains a tremendous raise from last year's $2MM salary. The raise is well-deserved, as Loney is fresh off a rebound campaign in which he batted .299/.348/.430 with the Rays. He posted the strong defensive marks that have come to be expected of him, registering a 7.2 UZR/150 and +4 Defensive Runs Saved.
Loney will re-join a lineup that features franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria, 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and the underrated Ben Zobrist. He doesn't have the prototypical power one would expect from a first baseman, but he has strong on-base and defensive skills, similar to recently acquired backstop Ryan Hanigan.
Loney was one of many first base options for the Rays to consider; Corey Hart and Justin Morneau have each signed affordable contracts in the past week or so, and Seattle acquired Logan Morrison from the Marlins in exchange for reliever Carter Capps. The trade market still presents options such as Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland and perhaps Justin Smoak.
However, signing Loney has long been a priority of the Rays, based on comments from exeuctive vice president and general manager Andrew Friedman made to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month: "The good thing for us is he liked it here. We liked him, he fit in well. And we're a known quantity … I'm hopeful that he can be here."
Edward Creech contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
On this date in 1980, the Yankees made Dave Winfield the highest-paid athlete in all of sports with a ten-year, $16MM contract. In the intervening four decades, a ten-year MLB contract is now worth something in the neighborhood of $240MM (Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols) to $275MM (Alex Rodriguez). Meanwhile, $16MM will only buy you one year of Hiroki Kuroda or two years of Marlon Byrd this offseason, per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. As you rush out and buy your child a bat, a glove, and every baseball instructional video ever made, here's today's American League news and notes:
- The Rays feel justified in giving James Loney the most lucrative free agent contract during Andrew Friedman's tenure, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays value Loney's defense, quality at-bats, clubhouse presence, and his left-handed bat which balances a predominantly right-handed lineup.
- Also from Topkin's article, the Rays will now turn their attention to adding bench and bullpen pieces with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Matt Joyce as possible trade chips.
- The market for Matt Garza is strong because of his 2013 season, AL East pedigree, and not being attached to draft pick compensation, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
- The Angels believe they can sign both Garza and Raul Ibanez and still fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes the Angels' interest in Ibanez stems from his career slash line of .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Astros are still in the market for a first baseman and could turn to the Nationals' Tyler Moore.
- Despite the signing of Joba Chamberlain, the Tigers' preference is to have Bruce Rondon set up closer Joe Nathan, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Royals are to be commended not just for signing Omar Infante away from the Yankees, but also strengthening their ballclub immediately at a reasonable cost, opines Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan.
The Astros aren't likely to sign Shin-Soo Choo, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle argues. They don't want to sacrifice the draft pick they'd have to give up in order to sign him (even though their top overall pick is protected). They might do so if Choo's price were low enough, but at this point, there's no reason to think Choo won't be very highly paid, which means that the Astros, interested though they are in adding big-league talent to a team that lost 111 games last year, probably won't be serious players. Drellich also notes that the Astros probably only have about $10MM left to spend for 2014, and want to add a first baseman and reliever with that money. Also, even acquiring a player of Choo's caliber wouldn't make the 2014 Astros a contending team. Signing Masahiro Tanaka would make more sense, Drellich argues, since Tanaka is only 25 and wouldn't cost a draft pick.
- The Astros were interested in James Loney, who would have filled a need (first base) and is from the Houston area, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports (via Twitter). Ultimately, though, Loney wanted too much money from the Astros, McTaggart says. He re-signed with the Rays for three years and $21MM.
- The Astros have not discussed the possibility of trading for Mike Carp with the Red Sox, Drellich tweets. Drellich also indicates that the Red Sox would seek a big return for Carp.
Loney, a client of the Legacy Agency, was said to be seeking a three-year deal in the $27-30MM range as recently as nine days ago. The 29-year-old Loney batted .299/.348/.430 with 13 homers in 2013 and comes with a reputation for sterling defense at first base. He's one of a number of first base options to have been linked to the Rays recently. Tampa Bay was said to have some interest in Logan Morrison prior to his trade to the Mariners. The trade market presents other potentially available options in the form of Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland.
FRIDAY: The Brewers and Mets are still talking about Davis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However, Milwaukee is holding firm in its stance that it will not part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported earlier in the week that the Mets had asked for Thornburg in return for Davis.
Haudricourt adds (also via Twitter) that if the Brewers are still in talks for Davis, it's likely an indication that Loney is still asking for too much in terms of years and/or average annual salary.
THURSDAY, 12:46pm: The Mets and Brewers met to discuss Davis on two separate occasions at the Winter Meetings, tweets Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Rays and Pirates are also possibilities for Davis, he adds.
10:23am: According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, all indications are that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin could move quickly to address his first base need. Melvin is meeting with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Haudricourt continues, so it's possible the two sides could work out a deal for Ike Davis. The Brewers have some interest in James Loney, but negotiations with him would be more complicated with other teams such as Pittsburgh in the mix, Haudricourt adds (Twitter links).
The Brewers missed out on a pair of their top first base targets yesterday, with each heading to the Mariners. Seattle reached an agreement with Corey Hart and swung a trade for Logan Morrison within an hour's time, leaving the Brewers with a sizable hole at first base.
Andrew Friedman doesn't think the Rays' search for a first baseman will last beyond another week, the club's executive VP told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). "There were some suggestions…of movement" between the Rays and James Loney on Thursday, Topkin reports, and Loney remains the Rays' top choice, though at less than his three-year, $27MM asking price. If Loney signs elsewhere, Topkin expects the Rays to acquire a first baseman in a trade rather than in free agency.
Here are some more items from around baseball as we conclude the 2013 Winter Meetings…
- This might be the optimal time for the Braves to trade Craig Kimbrel, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Kimbrel is about to get much more expensive now that he's eligible for arbitration, to the point that Kimbrel's incredible statistics "broke" the arbitration projection model used by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
- Rumors connecting Rickie Weeks to the Blue Jays, Braves and Marlins during the Winter Meetings were all false, Brewers GM Doug Melvin tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link).
- Ryan Kalish "is in the final stages" of signing with a new team, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Kalish was non-tendered by the Red Sox earlier this month. The outfielder missed the entire 2013 season recovering from shoulder and neck surgeries.
- Several teams, including the Red Sox, have been scouting right-hander Ryan Madson, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The Rockies were also recently linked to Madson, who has missed two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- ESPN's Paul Swydan (Insider subscription required) lists four teams who could be helped by the inexpensive additions of Kevin Youkilis, Brian Roberts, Johan Santana and Jeff Francis, respectively. Swydan also wrote about how Clint Barmes could help the Mets, but Barmes re-signed with the Pirates earlier today.
- Diamondbacks president/CEO Derrick Hall discussed his team's desire for a top starting pitcher, the recent Mark Trumbo deal and several other topics during a live chat with fans on MLB.com.
- The Pirates, Orioles and Indians could be risking their recent success with their hesitation to spend, USA Today's Bob Nightengale opines.
- Several team executives and scouts joined ESPN's Jayson Stark in listing the winners and losers of the offseason thus far, with a pair of teams (the Mariners and Yankees) somewhat in between, in the "winners with an asterisk" category.