The Tampa Bay Rays are spending the off-season filling in missing positions, including finding a first baseman. After wasting $7 million on Carlos Pena the year before (he finished with a batting average of .197) the Rays needed someone cheap to fill the first baseman role. The man they believe will be able to fill that row is James Loney, a left-handed-hitting first baseman. After a physical exam, the Rays will sign the 28 year-old for a one-year, $2 million contract.
Loney spent seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers before being traded to the Boston Red Sox in a nine player trade. Loney was a .282 career batter with the Dodgers, though he was only batting .249 in 2012. Considering that the Rays’ 2012 batting average was only .240, he is still batting higher than many Rays players. Though the Dodgers praised Loney, Manager Don Mattingly stated “I always thought there was more there, we just couldn’t get to it. At the end of the day, he just wasn’t hitting with any power and for us he was kind of trending backward.” This sounds similar to former Rays’ player B.J. Upton who never prospered as much as was expected (though he was still a great player and one of the Rays’ best players to date). A change of scenery and a fun atmosphere may help Loney return to his successful 2007-2011 years.
Even if he does not produce high numbers, the fact that the Rays only spent $2 million on him is a plus since more money is needed to fill in other empty spots on the roster. After spending millions on players that did not live up to the Rays’ expectation last year, it is keen only paying him $2 million. Loney’s two month experience with the Red Sox should also help him with the Rays since the Red Sox are the Rays’ rivals. The Red Sox have signed ex-Rays before in hopes of learning trade secrets, now it is the Rays’ turn.
The only drama Loney brings with him is that he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on November 14, 2011 after allegedly sideswiping his car into several cars in Los Angeles. All charges were dropped after toxicology tests came back negative. Since there was no evidence that he was drink and driving, Rays fans shouldn’t worry. After a spring season that had a reliever suspicious of rape being traded to the Rays and another minor league player injuring someone because of drinking and driving, the last thing the Rays need is a troubled player. The Rays need to make sure Loney feels welcomed because they need him to produce hits and have great defense if the Rays are going to make it to the playoffs in 2013.