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.