UPDATE: Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done. The Rays have signed James Loney to a one-year, $2 million deal with incentives which could land him an extra million.
1:25 AM: Those hoping the Rays would land a big bopper at first base this winter appear set to be disappointed. Yahoo’s Tim Brown reports that the team is close to a deal with free agent James Loney.
Loney, 28, was one of the game’s worst players last season, hitting .249/.293/.336 in 434 at-bats for the Dodgers and Red Sox. He hasn’t posted an 800 OPS since hitting .331/.381/.538 in 344 at-bats for the Dodgers in 2007.
The money might not be significant enough to prevent the Rays from acquiring another first baseman to play over Loney. Still, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be their primary starter against right-handers, replacing free agent Carlos Pena. Moves like this do have a way of working out for the Rays, and Loney is perhaps young enough to surprise. He did flash some talent in the second half of 2011, hitting .320/.380/.534 in 206 at-bats.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.