The Tigers announced today that they’ve signed veteran first baseman James Loney to a minor league contract. Loney will report to extended Spring Training for the time being as he gets back up to speed after sitting out since late March, when he was released from Rangers camp.
Loney was released by the Rays early last year in the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract, though he latched on with the Mets and spent the bulk of the 2016 campaign with New York, filling in for the injured Lucas Duda. In 366 plate appearances with the Mets, Loney slashed .265/.307/.397 with nine homers, 16 doubles and a triple. Defensively, he rated out as slightly above average at first base, per Defensive Runs Saved (+2) and slightly below average, per Ultimate Zone Rating (-0.8).
The Tigers don’t have much of a need for Loney at the Major League level presently, with Miguel Cabrera locking down first base and Victor Martinez lined up as the primary designated hitter, but the 32-year-old Loney (33 next month) will add some depth to cover the team in the event of an injury. Detroit currently has Efren Navarro manning first base for its Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, though Navarro can play some corner outfield as well, and Loney comes with considerably more Major League experience. In parts of 11 Major League seasons, Loney is a career .284/.336/.410 hitter that has averaged a dozen homers and 30 doubles per 162 games played.