James Loney Rumors
November will bring the eight-year anniversaries of the Rays' hirings of executive vice president Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Times. With Jim Leyland's retirement, Friedman and Maddon are now the longest-tenured GM/manager duo in Major League Baseball. Topkin quotes Friedman: "Joe and I have a tremendous working relationship that has only strengthened over time. I think that the continuity throughout our organization provides at least a little of a competitive advantage." Here's more on the Rays and the rest of the AL East...
- Within that same article, Topkin reports that there aren't likely to be any pre-emptive deals with impending free agents for the Rays. He lists James Loney and Fernando Rodney as two such free agents who would like to explore the free agent market. That goes against what teammate Joel Peralta said about Rodney a few weeks back; Peralta voiced his certainty that Rodney would take a discount to return to the Rays.
- Nolan Reimold hopes to return to the Orioles in 2014, though he realizes that he's not a lock to be tendered a contract, the 30-year-old tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Reimold missed the majority of the season once again but says he's significantly further along in his rehab from neck surgery than he was in his injury rehab at this time last season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $1.2MM salary for Reimold if the O's do indeed tender him.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com wonders how much of an impact Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35MM extension will have on the pitching market, specifically impending Orioles free agent Scott Feldman.
While David Price has resigned himself to being traded, the Rays appear to be trying to figure out ways to make their ace the focal point of their pitching staff for many years to come, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo notes, however, the Rays' front office realizes it could be a losing battle, so a trade is likely with nearly half of baseball rumored to be interested in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's a big name, a big-time pitcher," one National League GM told Cafardo. "Even if you feel you don't need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he's so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you'll see teams that don't even need him step up." Here's more from Cafardo's column:
- The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran starters to make room for their young arms. Cafardo suggests Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could be available while Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are also vulnerable.
- Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect fit for the Mariners and Carlos Beltran likewise for the Orioles.
- Curtis Granderson will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees and there's a strong possibility he would take it because he could post his biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
- The Dodgers will make Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp available this winter. Kemp will come with injury concerns, but that shouldn't prevent a team from taking a chance on his talent.
- James Loney has rebuilt his value with a strong season in Tampa (.299/.348/.430 with a 2.1 oWAR in 158 games and 598 plate appearances). Loney could find a market with the Rangers, if the Rays don't re-sign the free agent first baseman.
- Reds pitching coach Bryan Price appears to be the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker as manager in Cincinnati while Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to take over from Davey Johnson, unless ownership wants a bigger name as its new manager.
Over the last ten games, the Rays share a league-best 8-2 mark. Here are a few notes on the team as it looks to carry that momentum and regain its footing in a challenging AL East:
- The triceps strain that sent ace David Price to the DL could have major short and long-term implications for the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, with Price now battling an injury after already struggling on the mound to start the season, the team is holding its breath that it will have its top pitcher in good form for a postseason run. But even more troubling, the injury could have a huge impact on the Rays' long-term plans. Topkin explains that Tampa Bay likely cannot afford to extend Price after giving a major contract to Evan Longoria. Instead, as with Matt Garza and James Shields, an eventual trade of Price seems likely. Not only will the injury likely foreclose a trade deadline deal this season (however unlikely that was to begin with), but could significantly downgrade Price's trade value next offseason. As Topkin notes, even if Price returns strong, this blip on the radar could suppress the willingness of trade partners to offer the truly monumental prospect haul that Price was expected to garner.
- As expected, Jake Odorizzi will take Price's spot in the rotation for the time being, reports Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Odorizzi, of course, was acquired by the Rays -- along with the even higher-regarded Wil Myers and two other prospects -- in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. With Shields off to a fine start for the Royals, Odorizzi's ascension to the bigs will allow the Rays to begin adding production to their side of the ledger.
- Meanwhile, the Rays' success remains predicated, as ever, on executive vice president Andrew Friedman's uncanny ability to reclaim and restore veteran ballplayers. In particular, the club has stayed above .500, in spite of the surprising struggles of its pitching staff, by hitting above expectations. (The team is tied for third in all of baseball for team batting wins above replacement.) As Topkin writes, a major piece of the Rays' sudden offensive prowess is the much-maligned James Loney. Making only $2MM on a one-year deal, Loney is raking in Tampa, hitting .359/.415/.523 in his first 143 plate appearances. Since he showed the promise of this kind of production as a 23-year-old in 2007, the now-29-year-old has largely disappointed. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay banked on Loney's long-observed skill, and he has finally come through.
- Topkin goes on to list and describe several other successful Friedman reclamation projects, including relievers Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney, as well as infielders Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena. Of course, the Rays are hoping that Rodney can turn around his poor start and at least approach his incredible 2012 season.
- Another player that could be added to that list is Kelly Johnson, 31, who has played all over the diamond this year for the Rays while posting a .273/.348/.496 line in 138 plate appearances. This level may be surprising given Johnson's mediocre 2011-12 seasons, but as the Rays were no doubt aware, Johnson has at least three seasons under his belt (2007, 2008, 2010) as a productive big league hitter. With the team on the hook for only a modest one-year, $2.45MM investment, a veteran gamble has once again paid big dividends to Tampa Bay.
- According to Fangraphs' WAR measurements, Loney and Johnson have been the 42nd and 62nd most valuable hitters (respectively) in baseball this year. With Loney's relative youth and Johnson's ability to play second base, continued production from these players could make them very interesting free agent cases in 2014.
Last winter, the Rays signed a low-average, high-power hitter in Carlos Pena to man first base in Tampa. A year later, it seems the Rays are turning to Pena's polar opposite. The Rays have officially signed James Loney to a one-year deal worth $2MM, plus an additional $1MM in incentives. Even if he hits all of those incentives, Loney's total payday will be less than half of the $6.375MM he earned in his final year of arbitration last offseason.
The 28-year-old CAA client batted .249/.293/.336 with six homers in 465 plate appearances for the Dodgers and Red Sox in 2012. He was included as part of Boston's return in the blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles. Last year marked the first full season of Loney's career in which he posted an OBP lower than .329 and fewer than 10 homers.
The Dodgers selected Loney 19th overall in 2002 out of high school, and he served as the team's primary first baseman from 2007 up until the time of the trade. He never put together the tools that landed him on Baseball America's Top 100 list from 2003-07, however. To Loney's credit, he's regarded as a solid defender and has been incredibly durable throughout his career. He's averaged 156 games per year over the past five seasons.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported (on Twitter) the agreement between Loney and the Rays, after Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported late Sunday night that the two sides were nearing an agreement. Heyman (on Twitter) and Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (on Twitter) added the financial details. Luke Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Let's take a quick look around the league for a few of the morning's odds and ends out of Nashville....
- Giancarlo Stanton remains unhappy with the direction of the Marlins, agent Joel Wolfe tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). "It wasn't a reaction," Wolfe said, referring to Stanton's post-trade tweet last month. "It's a state of mind." Wolfe declined comment when asked if Stanton has requested a trade, according to Heyman (Twitter link).
- The Orioles may have some interest in Garrett Jones and could dangle pitching in trade talks with the Pirates, says Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Biertempfel adds within the same blog post that at least two American League teams weren't interested when the Pirates came to them to discuss Joel Hanrahan. According to Biertempfel, there are some concerns about Hanrahan's physical conditioning and his late-season performance in 2012.
- The Indians had been "seriously interested" in James Loney before he signed with the Rays, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
- Fernando Rodney, who will be a free agent next winter, has switched agents, leaving ACES and hiring Dan Lozano, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- The Royals' interest in Brett Myers is at the "kicking the tires" stage, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
- With a plethora of catchers in the mix, the Red Sox will field offers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman.
The Rays appear close to signing free agent first baseman James Loney, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). It would be a one-year deal for Loney, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
Loney, a client of CAA Sports, came to the Red Sox as a part of August's blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. On the year, 28-year-old hit .249/.293/.336 with six homers in 465 plate appearances for the two clubs. Boston was said to be considering a return for Loney, but the odds were pegged at 50-50 in late October.
The left-handed hitter would presumably come to Tampa Bay as a replacement for Carlos Pena at first base. Pena struggled last season, hitting .197/.330/.354 with 19 homers in 600 plate appearances.
The Red Sox will interview Rick Peterson for their pitching coach job, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The Orioles granted Boston permission to interview Peterson, who is currently Baltimore's director of pitching development and is a former pitching coach with the A's, Mets and Brewers.
Here's the latest from around the AL East...
- No teams have yet contacted the Yankees about a possible Alex Rodriguez trade, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
- The Orioles have scouted Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, confirming an earlier report from Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News that the O's had interest in the 18-year-old prospect. Since Otani has already been drafted (though not signed) by the NPL's Nippon Ham Fighters, Connolly suspects the O's might not make any quick attempts to sign Otani given the Orioles' issues last season in trying to sign Korean southpaw Seong-Min Kim.
- Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton are both too expensive for the Orioles' taste, writes MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko in an analysis of free agents who won't be pursued by the O's this winter. The team doesn't have interest in free agent pitchers Derek Lowe, Jeremy Guthrie, Edwin Jackson or Erik Bedard, while Kevin Youkilis is a longshot based on Baltimore's concerns about his health.
- James Loney has a less than 50-50 chance of returning to the Red Sox, reports MLB.com's Evan Drellich, though the Sox see Loney as a "Plan B" if they're still looking for first base help later in the offseason.
- The Rays have been denied permission by St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster to explore new stadium sites in nearby counties in Tampa Bay, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The Rays' lease at Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season.
- Mariano Rivera's retirement could help the Yankees avoid a tough decision with the closer's job, opines Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York. If Rivera retired, the Yankees could then pursue a new contract with Rafael Soriano without worrying about committing too much payroll space on closers.
- From earlier today, Joel Sherman of the New York Post had more items about the Yankees.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that there could be a few interesting options for manager Terry Francona this offseason. There could be two additional openings for the former Red Sox manager with reports indicating that the Angels' Mike Scioscia and Jim Leyland of the Tigers could be in danger of being dismissed this offseason. Cafardo opines that either team would be ideal for Tito as both teams have the resources to improve and he would be inheriting the same kind of talent-rich team he had in Boston after the 2003 season. Here's more from Cafardo..
- Outfielder Cody Ross has three major-market teams - the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox - very interested in him. Ross has made it clear that he would like to stay in Boston and Larry Lucchino said earlier this week that the club is beginning the process of keeping him for next season and beyond.
- The Red Sox are also thinking about re-signing James Loney and he is receptive to coming back, but he could pick up attention in a thin first base market. The Rays can be expected to kick the tires on Loney as they are unlikely to re-sign Carlos Pena.
- Mariners first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp could be expendable as the club is likely committed to Justin Smoak at first base. Carp is starting to appear on a few teams’ wish lists and one NL scout is rather high on him. “He’s an interesting name,” said the scout. “He’s been buried on that roster in a big ballpark, and if you take him out of there, he may break out. He’s someone you’d take a chance on.”
- One Angels exec expects to see Scioscia back in the dugout for the Halos next season. “It would be shocking for me,” said the executive. “I know there have been some issues, but Mike is one of the best, and that’s widely recognized. Guys like Sosh don’t come along very often, which is why he has the long-term contract that he does.“But I suppose crazier things have happened.” Scioscia is signed to a lucrative contract through 2018.
- The Red Sox could consider Ed Wade as they seek experienced front office help. There has also been talk that the Sox would consider Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, but that would require LaCava being offered a bigger title.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez may now be the front-runner for the Astros job because they are using Tampa Bay as their model. Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar also has the Rays background and is tight with former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who is on the panel that will pick the next manager.
The Red Sox lost their 82nd game of the season last night, clinching the franchise's first losing season since 1997. Needless to say, the Sox will be busy this offseason to ensure they get back over the .500 mark and beyond in 2013. Here's the latest out of Fenway Park...
- The Red Sox are looking to add an experienced front office executive to assist GM Ben Cherington, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava has been rumored in connection with this role, though since the Jays would only allow LaCava (or any employee) to interview with another team if he was being offered a promotion.
- Larry Lucchino was non-committal about Alfredo Aceves' future with the team in an interview on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show. (WEEI.com's Alex Speier provides the partial recap.) Aceves has had some disciplinary issues in Boston and the decision about his role in 2013 "will be made next spring by whatever team he is with," said Lucchino. "Maybe he’s with us. We’ll see. Maybe he’s elsewhere. It’s a little early to answer that question. We have so far [put up with his activities].” Aceves is arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason.
- Lucchino also discussed several other Red Sox players, including pending free agent Cody Ross, who the team "loves" and would like to bring back. Lucchino said the club is "at the beginning stages of that process.” Earlier today, Ross said his top priority for free agency would be to sign with a contending team.
- James Loney tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe that he would be interested in returning to Boston if the Sox make him a contract offer this winter. Loney is set to hit free agency and could prefer to sign with an AL team if he has a choice, as the first baseman says he prefers playing under American League rules.
- The Sox should move quickly to find a new manager, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, arguing that the team can't afford another long managerial search or protracted negotiations with the Blue Jays over John Farrell. "The easiest choice" would be to hire bench coach Tim Bogar, who is a management favorite and has already interviewed for the Astros' job.
If there was any doubt remaining that the Dodgers' new ownership group would drastically alter the franchise, it has now been completely eliminated. The Dodgers and Red Sox have officially completed a massive nine-player blockbuster trade that sends Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for James Loney and four prospects.
The four prospects are right-hander Allen Webster, infielder Ivan De Jesus, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa. The Red Sox will pay just $12MM of the over $270MM owed to Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez, and Punto, so their savings are considerable. Adding the four new players represents a substantial financial commitment by the Dodgers:
- Gonzalez will earn $21MM per season through 2016 and obtain a raise to $21.5MM for 2017-18. The total exceeds $130MM when accounting for the remainder his 2012 salary.
- Crawford will earn $20MM in 2013, $20.25MM in 2014, $20.5MM in 2015, $20.75MM in 2016 and $21MM in 2017.
- Beckett will earn $15.75MM per season through 2014.
- Punto earns $1.5MM per season through 2013.
With this trade as well as the previous acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Brandon League, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton, the Dodgers have absorbed more than $300MM in future payroll obligations in the last month or so. As Jeff Euston of Cot's Baseball Contracts notes (on Twitter), the club now has a $193.75MM in contract obligations for next season, $133.6MM for 2014, $90MM for 2015, $88.65MM for 2015, and another $90MM for 2016. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are now on the hook for just $45.6MM in 2013, $34.4MM in 2014, $12.75MM in 2015, and $2.45MM in 2016 (Twitter link).
Both Beckett (10-and-5 rights) and Crawford (limited no-trade clause) had to approve the deal, and Buster Olney of ESPN reports (on Twitter) that neither player asked for any kind of compensation to do so. The Dodgers were not included in Gonzalez's limited no-trade clause. Los Angeles claimed both Gonzalez and Beckett off trade waivers yesterday, plus Punto and Crawford both cleared earlier this month. Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times reports (on Twitter) that the Blue Jays are believed to have claimed De La Rosa off waivers, but he was pulled back and will technically be included in the deal as a player to be named later.
The Dodgers, who currently sit three games back of the Giants in the NL West race, are adding an impact left-handed bat to pair with the right-handed Matt Kemp in Gonzalez. The Southern California native spent the first five full seasons of his career a little further south with the Padres, so he's certainly familiar with the division. Gonzalez, 30, is hitting .300/.343/.469 with 15 homers in what is generally considered to be a down year compared to his career average of .294/.372/.509 and 30 or so homers annually. Dodgers' first basemen have hit just .244/.289/.357 this season, so even down year Gonzalez represents an enormous upgrade.
Beckett, 32, has pitched to a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts and 127 1/3 innings this season while battling thumb and back issues. His strikeout rate (6.6 K/9) is a career-low and PitchFX shows that his velocity has tapered off into the low-90s. Moving into the easier league and a more pitcher-friendly ballpark should help his numbers, and Beckett gives Los Angeles a pitcher with a proven playoff track record. Current Dodgers' starters have combined for just 11 career playoff starts, six by Blanton. Beckett alone has 13 playoff starts and a World Series MVP to his credit.
Crawford, 31, had Tommy John surgery two days ago and will miss the rest of the season. He hit just .260/.292/.419 with 14 homers and 23 steals in 161 disappointing games with the Red Sox after averaging .299/.340/.448 with 13 homers and 50 steals in eight full seasons with the Rays. Crawford is expected to be able to return to action early next season, meaning Victorino is likely to be allowed to leave as a free agent.
The Dodgers recently lost Jerry Hairston Jr. to a hip injury for the remainder of the season, so the 34-year-old Punto gives them some protection and added depth on the infield. He's hit just .200/.301/.272 with five steals in 148 plate appearances for Boston this year while playing all four infield positions. He's a year removed from a .278/.388/.421 line as a part-time player with the Cardinals.
Loney, 28, has hit just .254/.302/.344 with four homers in 359 plate appearances this season and will become a free agent this winter. He figures to serve as a stopgap first baseman for the Red Sox for the next six weeks or so.
Webster, 22, has pitched to a 3.55 ERA in 121 2/3 innings for the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate this season. The 25-year-old De Jesus has been up and down between Triple-A and the big leagues in recent years, hitting .301/.354/.416 in over 1,200 minor league plate appearances since 2010. Sands, 24, has been also been up and down these last two years. He owns a career .291/.363/.557 line nearly 900 Triple-A plate appearances. De La Rosa, 23, just returned from Tommy John surgery and pitched to a 3.71 ERA in ten starts and three relief appearances for Los Angeles last season. Click here for a more in-depth look at the prospects headed to Boston later today.
A trade of this magnitude had many helping hands along the way, though Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston first reported that the two sides were discussing this massive deal. Check out this post for all of the pre-completion rumors and reports. Michael Silverman of The Boston Herald and an Roche of WBZ (on Twitter) first reported completion of the trade while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times added details (Twitter links). Photo courtesy of US Presswire.