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.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.