Making official what was first reported earlier this week, the Rays announced their one-year deal with first baseman James Loney.
He’ll get $2 million in guaranteed money coming off a career-worst season in which Loney hit just .249 with six homers and a .630 OPS in 144 games for the Dodgers and Red Sox.
Loney has always lacked the power and overall production usually found in first basemen and in fact since debuting in 2006 his .758 OPS is the second worst among all MLB first basemen ahead of only Casey Kotchman.
Of course, Kotchman was the Rays’ starting first baseman in 2011 and clearly they’re willing to sacrifice power at the position in the name of improving the infield defense. Loney is a legitimately outstanding defender and certainly for $2 million it isn’t much of a commitment, but even a return to his pre-2012 levels at age 29 won’t help the lineup much.
Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.
Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”
Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.
The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.