We’ve heard that the Rockies are interested in Justin Morneau for their open first base job. But if that doesn’t work out, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that James Loney is the fallback option.They still want Morneau, however, Renck says, and he believes they can get him on a two-year deal given that no other team seems to be in on him right now.
Loney had what appears at first glance to be a breakout/resurgent season for the Rays last year, with a line of .299/.348/.430 to go with 13 HR and 75 RBI. But looking closer, you see that most of the damage he did was done during his scorching-hot April and May, and after that he settled back in to a Loney-esque .283/.328/.382 over the final four months of the season. That was still totally cool for the Rays, though, as he only cost them $2 million.
If he doesn’t break the bank Loney can still be valuable, especially given his fine defense. But fans of whichever team lands him should expect his production to look a lot more like those last four months of 2013, not the first two or the overall batting line for the year.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.