The Tampa Bay Rays filled their hole at first base before the first day of the WInter Meetings really even kicked off, signing former Dodgers and Red Sox first baseman James Loney to a one-year deal. Loney will earn just $2 million in 2013, making the deal very low risk for Tampa Bay.
After a career year in 2011 (losing that phrase very loosely), Loney fell off dramatically in 2012 with the Dodgers before getting dealt to Boston as part of the megadeal between the two huge media markets. In Boston, Loney's numbers fell from .254/.302/.344 before the trade to .230/.264/.310 after, which is absolutely unacceptable from a first baseman. I think the Rays are looking for a Casey Kotchman type season from Loney this year. In 2011, the Rays signed Kotchman to a one-year deal after he put together a disastrous .217/.280/.336 season in Seattle, and Kotchman delievered for them with a .306/.378/.422 season before plummeting to his pre-Rays numbers in 2012 with the Indians. If the Rays can even juice two wins out of Loney, they'll be in a better position than they were in 2012, when Carlos Pena provided less than a win of value to the team in 600 plate appearances while chewing up $7.25 million of payroll.
But the Rays might not be done with Loney. They have apparently been discussions (though to be fair, there are *tons* of discussions during the first week of December) between Tampa Bay and Washington regarding Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa heading to the Rays in exchange for some of Tampa Bay's young pitching (Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields, David Price, etc). A deal doesn't appear to be close to happening, though,,,but then again, things can heat up quickly once initial word gets out there. Morse could be a replacement in left field for Desmond Jennings, shifting to center to replace the departed BJ Upton, while Espinosa could play either position up the middle alongside Ben Zobrist.
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