James Loney rumors: 1B seeking 3-year, $27-30M contract
A solid bounce-back season can buy you a lot these days.
While that might seem like a lot of money for a guy coming off of a $2 million reclamation deal, it's actually down from his original offseason asking price. Loney was reportedly searching for a four-year, $40 million contract when November began, per Passan, but has taken a year and about $10 million off the price since then.
Loney, 29, has always been a solid contributor with the glove, but has never delivered the power production many expect from an everyday first baseman. The added value brought on by his defense is limited at the cold corner, so when his offensive numbers bottomed out in 2012 -- .249/.293/.336 in 144 games -- his days as a starter looked to be numbered.
The Rays still saw some potential in him, however, and the lanky lefty delivered. Loney batted .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs in 158 games at first for Tampa Bay, amassing nearly three wins above replacement.
The Pirates are rumored to have Loney at the top of their first-base wish list, but his current asking price might be out of the club's range. The Bucs have quite a bit of wiggle room in their payroll this winter, but the biggest free-agent contract the franchise has ever handed out was the two-year, $17 million deal they gave Russell Martin last winter. It seems unlikely that Neal Huntington would exceed that figure by at least $10 million for someone as potentially volatile as Loney.
The Rockies have also been tied to Loney, but they've presumably dropped out of the picture since signing Justin Morneau on Monday. Tampa Bay also had interest in re-inking its first baseman when the offseason began, but they're more known for the trolling the bargain bucket for first basemen -- see: Loney, 2012 -- than doling out multi-year deals for millions of dollars.
Even with his concerns at the plate, Loney is probably the second-best first baseman available on the market behind Mike Napoli this winter, so he could get the money he's hoping for if Nap pulls in a bigger deal. The next best first-base types on the market are Mike Morse, Kevin Youkilis and Kendrys Morales, the latter of whom has the burden of a qualifying offer hanging on his shoulders.
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