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.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.