The Tampa Bay Rays on Friday afternoon officially announced that they have brought back free agent first baseman James Loney with a three-year, $21 million deal.
Loney’s contract is the largest free agent contract given to a Ray’s player since owner Stuart Sternberg took over the team in 2005 and is well deserved after a very successful first season with the team.
Loney hit a team high .299 with 13 home runs and 75 RBIs in 158 games and was a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
Loney's signing reunites the 2013 infield (Zobrist, Escobar and Longoria) in which all four players were finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
The news of the Loney agreement originally broke back on December 13, but because of an impending physical and working out all the details of the contract, the official announcement was held off until now.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Loney will receive a $5 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million (2014), $7 million (2015) and $8 million (2016). Loney earned $2 million in 2013.
"I think I just kind of realized where I'd like to be," said Loney, who had interest from several clubs.” I knew the team was going to be competitive. So when you have those kinds of factors it definitely makes it a lot easier."
With Loney being locked up for the next three years, it ends the revolving door of first baseman the team has had over the past couple of years that saw the likes of Casey Kotchman, Dan Johnson, Carlos Pena and Luke Scott handle the position.
Bringing Loney back "was something that was a priority for us coming into the winter," said Andrew Friedman, Ray’s executive vice president of baseball operations.
A first-round pick by the Dodgers in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Loney signed a one-year deal with the Rays prior to last season. He had split the 2012 season between the Red Sox and Dodgers after spending the first six years of his career in Los Angeles.
News and updates
There has never been an off-season that the Rays have gone without some sort of makeover to their roster and in recent years the list of “needs” has grown due to the teams financial limitations. This off-season has been no different.
As soon as the final out was made in Game 6 of the World Series, Roberto Hernandez, Luke Scott, Fernando Rodney, James Loney, Jose Molina, Kelly Johnson, Jesse Crain, Jamey Wright and Delmon Young all became free agents.
Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist and David DeJesus had their options picked up, Jose Molina was re-signed to a 2-year deal, and reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo who was recovering from Tommy John surgery and did not pitch in 2013 was non-tendered and re-signed to a 1-year, $1.5 million contract.
In acquiring Bell, the Rays traded outfielder Todd Glaesmann and pitcher Justin Choate. They will also receive $0.5 million from Arizona. Hanigan who was part of the 3-team trade that included Bell, was then signed to 3-year, $10.75 million deal (2014: $2.75M, 2015: $3.5M, 2016: $3.7M, 2017: $3.75M club option -$0.8million buyout)
It is still very possible that David Price could be traded, a la James Shields last off-season as his salary over the final two years of arbitration may have cost him his time with the Rays. Price is due for another raise in arbitration and speculation is that it could jump to $13 million in 2014.
While Friedman has been non-committal, Price himself is preparing for a trade and manager Joe Maddon told Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune that change is part of the Rays culture and because of that Price is mentally preparing for an off-season trade.
Player transactions and more
Arrivals: RHP Heath Bell (trade with Diamondbacks), C Ryan Hanigan (trade with Reds), claimed LF Jerry Sands off waivers from Pittsburgh Pirates, claimed reliever Pedro Figueroa off waivers from the A's.
Departures: INF Kelly Johnson (free agent, signed with Yankees), RHP Roberto Hernandez (free agent, signed with Phillies), LHP Wesley Wright (non-tendered, signed with Cubs), C Chris Gimenez (claimed off waivers by A's), RHP Jamey Wright (free agent, signed with Dodgers), RHP Jesse Crain (free agent, signed with Astros) and DH Luke Scott (free agent, signed with SK Wyverns - Korea)
Arbitration Eligible: David Price (2013 $10.11; projected $13.1), Matt Joyce (2013 $2.45 million; projected $3.7), Sean Rodriguez (2013 $1 million; projected 1.3), Jake McGee*(2013 $506,200; project $1.2), Jeremy Hellickson*(2013 $503,000; projected $3.3), Cesar Ramos* (2013 $501,300; projected $700,000) and Jose Lobaton (2013 $496,500; projected $1.0).*- first time eligible
Tendered players who don't sign by Jan. 14 file for arbitration, with figures exchanged Jan. 17 and hearings in February. Non-tendered players become free agents, which also means the Rays could have more candidates to consider as they seek relievers and a bench player or two.
Tim Beckham (right knee surgery in December 2013) had a torn ACL repaired. He is expected to miss six to eight months.
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