James Loney Rumors
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.
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.
It sounds as if Ike Davis will remain a member of the Mets beyond the Winter Meetings, but will likely be dealt this month, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin hears that the Mets are being reasonable in their demands for the first baseman, and with the Rays and Brewers both in on James Loney, the loser may wind up with Davis. Speaking of Loney, Rubin adds that Loney is still asking for three years, but is unlikely to get more than two (Twitter links).
As the Mets continue to seek out the best possible return for Davis, let's check in on a few more items from around the NL East....
- The Marlins are still weighing trade options for a third baseman, president of baseball operations Michael Hill confirmed on Wednesday, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. The team hopes to add a player who is ready to contribute in 2014 and has the flexibility to switch positions when 2013 draftee Colin Moran is ready for the bigs.
- Ruben Amaro Jr. suggests the Phillies have "left no stone unturned" in their search for starting pitching. However, while the team has laid plenty of groundwork, Amaro and the Phils may leave Orlando without having added a starter, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
- The Nationals sorted through as many as four trade options before deciding to acquire Jerry Blevins, according to GM Mike Rizzo (link via James Wagner of the Washington Post). Washington liked Blevins because he represents a "younger, controllable type of guy" at an affordable rate, says Rizzo.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Attention on the first base market could now shift to James Loney after the Mariners took a pair of options off the board in Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Yesterday, we heard that the Pirates were checking back in on him, while the Brewers were hesitant to meet his three-year asking price. Here's the latest:
- The Brewers have "sincere interest" in Loney but don't expect to get anything done before leaving the Winter Meetings, according to McCalvy (on Twitter).
- The Pirates and Brewers are still in on Loney, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, with the Rays also remaining in the discussion.
- Indeed, after watching Hart leave for Seattle, the Brewers have turned their attention to Loney, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club is probably only interested if the deal stays under three years, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
- If Milwaukee instead shifts its attention at the trade market, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter), options include Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland, and Justin Smoak. Haudricourt wonders (via Twitter) if the thin market could lead to an increased willingness to pay Loney.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier today that while the Astros prefer a stopgap, they haven't ruled out Loney.
The Brewers have a one-year offer plus some incentives on the table to Hart, but he's weighing an offer from another team that is said to contain more incentives than the Brewers' offer. Brewers officials were up past 1am ET last night waiting on a response from Hart before hearing that he needs more time to make his decision.
GM Doug Melvin heard from James Loney's agent this morning, but McCalvy indicates that Loney's three-year asking price is too high. Trades for Ike Davis and Logan Morrison present alternatives, but the Mets have asked Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg in return for Davis -- a surprisingly lofty price considering the two seasons each had. Davis batted .205/.326/.334 for the Mets, while Thornburg posted a 2.03 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings and finished the season strongly as a member of Milwaukee's rotation.
The Brewers would like resolution on the situation before tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft, McCalvy reports.
Loney was said to be a top target of the Pirates last week, but reports shortly thereafter surfaced, suggesting that the former Ray is looking for a three-year deal worth as much as $30MM. The lefty swinger enjoyed a nice rebound campaign with the Rays in 2013, hitting .299/.348/.430 with 13 homers and his typical brand of strong defense at first base. Since that time, the Pirates have been connected to Logan Morrison in trade talks, though interest on that front was most recently said to be "mild."
Earlier today, we heard from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that a trade agreement between the Rangers and Blue Jays fell through when a player involved in the deal failed his physical. The FOX duo reported that Sergio Santos would have been sent to Texas in the swap, and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca adds another detail, revealing that the agreed-upon trade would have seen the Blue Jays land a starting pitcher. Here's more on the Jays from Orlando:
- The Pirates approached the Jays about Adam Lind, but talks quickly fizzled when Toronto countered by asking about Neil Walker, according to Davidi.
- While the Jays aren't necessarily looking to move Lind, the team has asked around about other first base options like James Loney, Mitch Moreland, and Logan Morrison, in case a Lind deal presents itself.
- GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't comment specifically on whether the Blue Jays would bid on Masahiro Tanaka, but said, "I think it’s safe to say any good starter that’s out there we’re going to be active, we’ll try to be involved and see if it makes sense for us."
- Anthopoulos added that the Jays are "having some dialogue" on a smaller deal that would add a right-handed bat to the team's bench.
- Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com passes along a transcript of manager John Gibbons' conversation with the media today, which includes plenty of discussion about possible holes on the roster and potential moves to address them.
The Rays will trade David Price, but his two remaining years of team control mean that GM Andrew Friedman can afford to wait for the right return, Marc Topkin writes for the Tampa Bay Times. They're expected to look to improve upon the return they got from the Royals for James Shields, so a package could comprise an elite-level young player such as the Mariners' Taijuan Walker or the Rangers' Jurickson Profar, along with a major league-ready talent and one or two lower-level prospects. Here's the latest out of the AL East:
- While the Rays might play the waiting game with Price, first base is "an area we absolutely have to address," Friedman says in a second Topkin article. They'd like to re-up with James Loney, but not at his three-year, $27MM asking price. Topkin adds that the Rays also appear to be interested in a veteran right-handed hitter who can handle second base, citing reported interest in Mark Ellis and Jamey Carroll.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says his club may be done with its "heavy lifting" this offseason and is now entering an "opportunistic phase," Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets. The team is "sort of looking at different scenarios, different ideas, and maybe nothing comes of those because we feel pretty good about where we are right now," Ian Browne quotes Cherington as saying in an MLB.com article.
- It's easy to overlook just how bad the 2013 Yankees were, SBNation's Rob Neyer writes. The club won 85 games, but its Pythagorean record suggests a 79-win team, and more nuanced analyses indicate the team was even worse. However, this offseason's slew of free agent signings and healthy seasons from players such as Mark Teixeira should give the Yankees a fighting chance in 2014, Neyer says. The Bombers figure to be better at no less than seven positions next year.
- MLB sources say the Yankees will listen on Brett Gardner, particularly if they're offered a starting pitcher in exchange, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. The Star-Ledger previously reported major interest in the outfielder. Gardner is projected to earn $4MM in his final year of arbitration by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
- While there's good sense in the Orioles' decision to allow Scott Feldman and Nate McLouth to depart to other teams, the club must secure replacements, Dan Connolly writes for The Baltimore Sun. Connolly says at least one should be replaced by an upgrade via free agency, citing Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett as acceptable substitutes for Feldman.
James Loney's name has begun to surface on the rumor mill in the past 24 hours, as he's reportedly a primary target for the Rays and Pirates. According to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, Loney and his new representatives at the Legacy Agency set out seeking a four-year, $40MM pact this offseason and are now targeting something in the range of $27-30MM over three years (Twitter link).
Though that number may seem high to some, it's not surprising that Loney is looking to crush Justin Morneau's two-year, $13MM deal with the Rockies. Loney is three years younger than Morneau and coming off a much better season. 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.
Mike Napoli is probably the top first base option on the market, but teams like the Rays and Pirates, who know that Napoli is out of their price range, could look to Loney as a more affordable alternative. Loney doesn't have the same power or as consistent a track record, but his agents can make the claim that he comes with more certainty than a wild card like Corey Hart, who missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing surgery on each of his knees.
Likewise, Michael Morse and Kevin Youkilis each battled injuries and turned in sub-par performances when healthy, leaving Loney, Napoli and perhaps Kendrys Morales (who is more of a DH but could be deployed at first base in the short-term) as the only free agent first basemen coming off strong seasons.
Interested parties could be wary of three guaranteed years for Loney, however, given his weak 2012 showing. Loney batted just .246/.293/.336 with six home runs that year.
12:29pm: Loney is also a top target for the Rays, if they can afford him, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin relays some quotes from team president Matthew Silverman's interview on WDAE-620 AM radio this morning: "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."
11:42am: The Pirates have contacted the Blue Jays about Adam Lind and the Rangers about Mitch Moreland, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark (on Twitter), but clubs who have spoken to the Buccos get the sense that James Loney has emerged as their top choice at the position.
At 29 years of age, Loney is a young free agent (he'll turn 30 next May). The lefty swinger enjoyed a nice rebound campaign with the Rays in 2013, hitting .299/.348/.430 with 13 homers and his typical brand of strong defense at first base. The Pirates had a hole at first base all season that they tried to fill by acquiring Justin Morneau from the Twins. While Morneau provided a solid OBP, he didn't homer in Pittsburgh and ultimately did little to improve the collective .243/.324/.402 batting line posted by Pittsburgh first basemen.
There was talk of re-signing Morneau, but that option disappeared last night when he agreed to a two-year, $13MM contract with the Rockies. That contract is likely good news for Loney and his new representatives at the Legacy Agency. Loney is three years younger than Morneau and coming off a much better season, so he should be able to top that guarantee. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted a two-year, $16MM contract for Loney back in early November, and it's possible at this point that he could top that figure.
As for the other two targets mentioned by Stark, both Moreland and Lind make some degree of sense for the Pirates. Each has a strong track record against right-handed pitching but is overmatched by lefties. Pittsburgh has a solid in-house platoon option at first base in the form of Gaby Sanchez. Both Moreland and Lind can be controlled through the 2016 season.