1:12pm: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Loney secured an opt-out provision in his contract that allows him to take a Major League opportunity if it presents itself elsewhere (Twitter link). The Padres, though, do have right of first refusal, so they’ll have a chance to put him on their own big league roster first if another club does offer a 25-man roster spot.
APRIL 8, 8:00am: While there’s no official word from the team yet, Loney himself announced that he has signed in San Diego late last night (Twitter link).
APRIL 7: The Padres have agreed to a minor league pact with first baseman James Loney, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). Loney had, of course, been released recently by the Rays, who remain on the hook for his $8MM salary for the coming season — less whatever he ends up earning in San Diego (or elsewhere), which almost certainly won’t exceed the league minimum rate of pay.
Loney, who’ll turn 32 in a month, was displaced by several offseason acquisitions by Tampa Bay. Coming off of a strong platform year, he inked a three-year pact with the Rays before 2014. Things didn’t go as hoped, however, as Loney took a step back in the first campaign and ended last year with a subpar .280/.322/.357 slash over just 388 plate appearances.
Despite showing some potential early in his career, power has never been Loney’s calling card. But at his best, he delivers a high average with solid on-base numbers while carrying a quality glove at first. Of course, advanced metrics soured on his work in the infield over the last two seasons. It’s worth noting, too, that Loney carries fairly drastic platoon splits, and is best off avoiding opposing southpaws.
For San Diego, Loney adds another piece to an organization that has struggled offensively out of the gates. Wil Myers figures to play every day at first, but could move to the outfield at times if the new addition becomes an option against righties. Of course, Brett Wallace occupies a similar role on the current roster, so Loney will have to earn an opportunity just to crack the majors.