Rays Get the Benefit of the Doubt and Exploit Their Freedom
Loney was tremendous for the Rays with a slash line of .299/.348/.430, 13 homers and excellent defense. With the first base market limited to such questions marks and reclamation projects as Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Justin Morneau, Kendrys Morales and Ike Davis, the Rays chose to retain Loney rather than repeat the process they’ve followed with Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman and Loney of signing players who had ability and would take low-level contracts.
Given Loney’s career history apart from 2012, there’s little risk of the signing biting the Rays. With the Dodgers, Loney was never appreciated for his good play because he wasn’t a prototypical slugging first baseman. His career average numbers are close to what he gave the Rays last season and the Rays don’t bow to the prehistoric “corner infielders and outfielders must hit homers” and other antiquated notions commonly presented as analysis.
Still, although the Rays crunched the numbers and calculated Loney’s value with his bat and glove vs. what else was out there, there’s a risk that 2013 was a career year for him and he’ll lapse back to the aggravating player he was before. Perhaps they would’ve been better off repeating their common practice of finding players who are desperate and want to rejuvenate their value.
History has shown that the Rays have had very little success in paying big money for players other than Evan Longoria, and he took far less than what he could’ve gotten on the market to stay. They gave Pat Burrell two-years and $16 million and he was an injured and uninterested disaster. To make it worse, he went to the Giants after the Rays released him and was a linchpin and leader on their 2010 World Series winning club. Apart from that, the Rays steer clear of any free agent that other teams want because they know they can’t win a bidding war. That leaves them with finding players who are looking for a mutual benefit of playing time in exchange for a short-term contract with a team like the Rays that will give them a chance to make bigger money elsewhere.