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.
Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.
The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.
The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.
In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.