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Tampa Bay Rays: Remembering the Consistent James Loney

By David Egbert
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Everything looked good on paper with their offseason acquisitions, but the Tampa Bay Rays may have done the unthinkable.

Last fall the Tampa Bay Rays made a decision to try and bring more power into their batting order.

The team desperately needed to score more runs and the Rays decided that home run hitters were the way to go.

They traded for Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison. In addition, they signed Steve Pearce.

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This looked good on paper except for the fact that with Morrison and Pearce now on board a move had to be made.

The eventual move would be that of James Loney, their then current first baseman who was as consistent as they come.

Loney had been with the Rays for three years and was about to enter the last year of a three year deal.

The year was worth $8 million. Loney had been an amazing consistent hitter with the exception of 2012 and 2015.

A late season trade from the Dodgers to the Red Sox had disrupted 2012 and in 2015 he had been hurt for a third of the season.

Over his ten year career, his 162 game average was a .284/.355/.418 slash line with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs.

These are certainly not Miguel Cabrera kind of numbers but a pretty good overall portfolio.

On the other hand, the man the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to play first, Logan Morrison, didn’t have a great 162 game average.

Over a six year career, Morrison had a .243/.323/.410 slash line with an average of 19 home runs and 63 RBIs.

It made no difference to the Rays front office.

They were convinced that Morrison with Pearce helping out against left handed pitching was the way to go. That left Loney, first base being his only position, with no place to play.

Attempts to trade him did not pan out and the small market, budget impaired Rays did the unthinkable.

They released him and ate his $8 million contract. Think about it. The Tampa Bay Rays wasted 13% of their meager $60 million budget!

The move turned out to be a disaster from the start.

Morrison had a .100 batting average with no home runs or RBIs in the month of April. He righted the ship for a bit in the month of May but then fell backwards for the months of June, July and August.

Of late, he has lost his job to Brad Miller who has been shifted to first base after being less than spectacular at shortstop.

Morrison’s slash line for the season is .243/.303/.366 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Loney was picked up by the San Diego Padres in April and assigned to their triple A team.

His contract was then purchased by the New York Mets at the end of May and he has been their regular first baseman ever since.

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His slash line has been .270/.312/.393 with 6 home runs and 26 RBIs in 270 at bats.

Loney’s 2016 season, although abbreviated, has been consistent with his career numbers. He gets on base once or twice a game through a hit and/or a walk.

Ironically, with Longoria, Miller and Dickerson delivering home runs, that’s what the Rays needed this season.

The trade with Seattle that sent Nate Karns to Seattle for Miller and Morrison might have been saved.

That being Brad Miller who has turned out to be an outstanding hitter and also a solid athletic first baseman.

However, had Loney been in the lineup, Miller could have been placed in left field where Dickerson and Desmond Jennings have been less than stellar this year.

Even a Karns for Brad Miller deal would have been just fine.

I’m not saying that the Tampa Bay Rays terrible 2016 season would have been saved with James Loney in the lineup.

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What I am saying is that the Tampa Bay Rays wasted a trade chip for a player, Logan Morrison, that they really didn’t need.

In addition, had the Tampa Bay Rays used the $4 million they spent on Morrison and the $3 million they wasted on Jennings could have been spent on a decent catcher.

With that said, it’s possible that this season may have played out differently.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Wounded Slowly Return to Action

Any way you cut it, dumping James Loney and his contract was the worst front office move since the Devil Rays traded Bobby Abreu for Kevin Stocker.

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