Sep 30, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney (21) forces out Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto (20) during the second inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Rays are faced with the task of identifying a trade market for James Loney now that his salary exceeds $9.6 million and he’ll become a free agent post 2016
If the Rays are going to compete in the beast that is the A.L. East, they can’t afford to knowingly expect a sub-par performance both offensively and defensively at any position. Before I explain how much of a down year 2015 was for Loney, I want to point out that over the two previous seasons he did manage a 2.6 WAR (2013) and 0.8 WAR rating (2014). So any team looking to trade for him would be doing so based on his potential to return to those levels and not solely on his 2015 season.
Per Fangraphs, Loney’s 2015 was *cough* not the best season, and explaining why isn’t exactly going to sell him as a trade chip, but here it goes.
His Batting Value – which is park adjusted – was a -5.5, his base-running was -9.6, his fielding was -2.4 and positional value was -7.1. All added up, that led to a whopping -15.1 Offense and -9.5 Defense rating (worst of his career), a -11.8 RAR and -1.3 WAR. In essence, the Rays needed to do something to improve their 1B performance.
In his short playing time at 1B, Shaffer managed to provide the Rays with hope in the form of a 1.9 RAR and 0.2 WAR. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but a 1.5 WAR swing means a lot when chasing a playoff spot. And considering that was accomplished over only 15 games, it allows for a lot of projection into what a full season may bring.
Ok, so we know that the Rays can likely make due without Loney in 2016 and can therefore look to trade him. With his cost and value from 2015, the returns are going to be minimal. Since this is the Rays, we’re going to say 2 prospects at the lowest levels of the minors that the Rays can bank on building up over time.
While Loney didn’t do great in 2015, he has a ton of experience, will be a FA in 2017 which is actually attractive to some teams who want to minimize costs, and at 31 years old Loney is still young enough to rebound to his 2013-14 form.
We’ll identify 3 teams that have the money (or not), the need at 1B, and the possible will to pull the trigger on acquiring Loney.
Next: Loney Tunes to Los Angeles?