5:12pm: It’s a minors pact, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets.
3:46pm: The Braves have agreed to a deal with veteran free agent James Loney, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports on Twitter. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney had just reported via Twitter that a deal was close. It’s unclear at this time whether it’s a MLB deal, though that certainly seems plausible in this case.
It is hardly surprising to hear of this match. Atlanta was in sudden need of a first baseman after losing Freddie Freeman for an extended stretch. And Loney had only recently been cut loose by the Tigers organization, where he had been playing at Triple-A.
Atlanta did also just promote corner infielder Rio Ruiz, though it seems he’ll likely remain at his natural third base for the most part. Understandably, the Braves did not have a natural replacement for Freeman, a fully established hitter who had stepped up to new heights thus far in 2017. Of course, the club had inked elder statesman Ryan Howard earlier this year, but he was released after a brief and unsuccessful run at Gwinnett.
It goes without saying that Loney won’t match Freeman as a middle-of-the-order threat. Even at his best, Loney delivered value by getting on base at a solid clip and playing good defense, not by delivering significant power. The 33-year-old has bounced around in recent years, most recently slashing .265/.307/.397 over 366 plate appearances last season for the Mets — who added him under similar circumstances to those now impacting their division rivals. While he has been a regular player at times in his career, Loney was hitting just .200/.351/.222 in his 57 trips to the plate at Triple-A thus far in 2017.