Rays would like to bring James Loney back if he lowers his price

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First baseman James Loney had a career rebirth of sorts in 2013 with the Rays and the team would like to bring him back, but not at his current asking price, reports Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Loney is currently seeking a three-year, $27 million deal.

If the Rays have to search for a first baseman elsewhere, the free agent market is rather barren at the position. Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Youkilis are at the top of the list. Topkin suggests the Rays might be more motivated to make a trade, particularly because they would like a left-handed hitting first baseman. Among the lefty first basemen that could be acquired in a trade: Logan Morrison, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, and Justin Smoak.

As for Loney, he finished 2013 with a .778 OPS, his highest mark since 2007. He also finished with 2.7 WAR (per Baseball Reference), matching a career-best. Loney had joined the Rays on a one-year, $2 million deal but now that he has boosted his value, the 29-year-old is seeking both a significant raise and a multi-year contract.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.