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.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians and Padres are still discussing a potential trade for a starting pitcher, namely Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Rosenthal adds that a deal isn’t close and is unlikely to occur before Opening Day. The Padres are balking at the Indians’ asking prices for the two starters.
The Padres could certainly use an ace at the top of the rotation. With the addition of Manny Machado, the lineup is looking decent, but beyond Joey Lucchesi, the starting pitching doesn’t inspire confidence.
Kluber, who turns 33 years old next month, has club options for the next two seasons at $13.5 million and $14 million with $1 million buyouts each. Last year, the right-hander finished third in AL Cy Young balloting, finishing 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings.
Bauer, 28, is earning $13 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration heading into 2020. Last year, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and a 221/57 K/BB ratio across 175 1/3 innings.
The Indians are the prohibitive favorites in the AL Central once again, but that has as much to do with the mediocrity of the rest of the division as the Indians’ commitment to competing. If the Indians were to trade either or both starters, that would be good news for the Twins, who are projected to be 15 games worse than the Indians but still finish in second place, according to PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.