It’s time for Dodgers to release James Loney

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Haven’t we all seen enough by now?

All James Loney really had going for him the past couple of years was decent RBI totals.  He truly was a clutch player, in that he hit like a perfectly solid first baseman with RISP and then napped through his at-bats with no one on.

This year, though, Loney has hit like a bad shortstop no matter the situation.  He’s batting .251/.294/.325 with five homers.  Despite batting fifth and sixth all season, he’s driven in a piddly 35 runs in 378 at-bats.

So, the Dodgers should just give up on him now.  There’s no way he can rebound enough over the final 47 games of the season to justify another raise in arbitration this winter.  Despite his modest production — this will be his fourth straight season with an OPS under .800 and fewer than 15 homers — he’s making $4.875 million.  Players in arbitration don’t take paycuts, so the Dodgers would have to spend at least that much to bring him back next year, making him a virtual shoo-in to get non-tendered.  Why not start the process early and spend these next 47 games instead looking at whether Jerry Sands can step in at first base next year?

Sands, who also plays left field, struggled to a .200/.294/.328 line in 25 at-bats for the Dodgers earlier this season, but that just gave him the same OPS that Loney has posted in three times as much action.  Back in Triple-A, Sands has hit 21 homers in 268 at-bats.  He’s taken full advantage of the high-offense environment at Albuquerque — he has a 1.096 OPS at home and a .640 OPS on the road — so there is reason to be skeptical.  But that’s why the smart play would be to give him a long look now before deciding whether to sign a first baseman over the winter.

It’s not as though there’s anything left to lose.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”