The Mets have at least “some curiosity about” Padres first baseman James Loney, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Loney’s representatives at the Legacy Agency are expected to contact the club today to see if there’s a fit.
While Loney remains under control of the Padres, he’s reportedly able to opt out of his contract if a major league opportunity arises with another organization. As I explained this morning in breaking down New York’s options with Lucas Duda sidelined, Loney looks to be one of the most viable targets for the club.
Playing at Triple-A to open the year, Loney owns a .333/.368/.417 slash over 155 plate appearances with two home runs and just ten strikeouts to go with his nine walks. That’s not a terribly surprising batting line for the 32-year-old, who is a somewhat atypical hitter for a first baseman. Over his decade of major league experience, Loney has slashed .285/.338/.411, relying on average and low strikeout tallies to make up for a lack of pop.
Loney has also generally graded out well with the glove, though defensive metrics viewed him as a slightly below-average performer at first in each of his last two major league seasons. He also won’t require any kind of payroll hit beyond the league minimum, as the Rays released him this spring when trade partners failed to materialize. Tampa Bay remains obligated for his $8MM salary.
With San Diego rostering both Wil Myers and Brett Wallace, it doesn’t appear as if the Padres will be motivated to move Loney up to keep him in the organization. Wallace is hardly untouchable, but his salary is guaranteed and he’s capable of playing third base. On the other hand, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has noted on Twitter, San Diego would have the option of elevating Loney if another team offers him a big league job, which also means the club could potentially extract some trade value.
The Mets will, no doubt, consider alternatives. The left-handed-hitting Loney wouldn’t make much sense on the roster when Duda returns, after all, and it’s probably worth at least checking to see if there’s a better match elsewhere. As covered in the above-linked post, there are a lot of possibilities out there, though ultimately a low-risk fill-in would make plenty of sense.
One hypothetical candidate, Nick Swisher of the Yankees, does not appear to be a fit. Sherman notes that the Mets don’t have interest in the veteran, who has continued to post meager numbers at Triple-A.