Winter Meetings Roundup: Rays Add Two Infielders, Only One Was Good

Updated: December 6, 2012

I recently wrote about how the Tampa Bay Rays are the smartest team in baseball, but this week I almost wrote another post criticizing them for being profoundly dumb. The Rays signed first basemen James Loney for $2 million to be their starting first basemen. Believe it or not, that’s an overpay. James Loney might be the worst starting first basemen in baseball. By a lot. Arguably the best part of the Dodgers’ trade with the Red Sox last summer was that they were able to dump Loney (not really, but go with it). Sabermatricians estimate that fair market value is $5 million per full point of WAR, and last year Loney’s WAR was -.3. So, really, he should be paying the Rays to play for them, not the other way around. You’re telling me that the Rays don’t have a guy in the minors who can be a replacement level player in the pros? You’re telling me they can’t find anyone better than Loney who will play for less than $2 mil? Terrible contract for a bad player.

On the other hand, the Rays picked up noted homophobe Yunel Escobar for a minor leaguer from the Marlins. Though Escobar is an ass and a bad teammate, he’s a good shortstop. He posted an impressive 2.5 WAR last season in what was arguably a down year for him. He’s a career .282  hitter with some pop and some speed. He’ll be a nice compliment to Evan Longoria in the middle of the lineup and on the left side of the infield.

-Max Frankel


  1. Cole

    December 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

    JAMES LONEY IS FAR FROM THE WORST STARTING FIRSTT BASEMAN!! maybe the sub .200 hitting Carlos Peña?!? That guy was a terrible signing last year, and half the reason the Rays did terrible, a guy making that much money should be producing!! Loney is an upgrade..

  2. Scott

    December 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I would love to have a basher at 1B, and long for the 2007 version of Carlos Pena. However, even including his off year in 2012 and including 2006 and 2007 when he played only 48 and 96 games, respectively, James Loney’s average year – that’s average, not best – would have ranked him as follows on the Rays’ 2012 team: Avg – 3; Hits – 1; R – 5; 2B – 2; HR – 7; RBI -1; OBA – 5; SLG – 8; OPS – 6. Even his way-below-average 2012 would have put him 5th in Hits, 4th in 2B, 7th in Avg, and 8th in RBI on the 2012 team. Other than 2012 and 2006 (48 games), his lowest RBI production in any year was 65, which would have placed him 3rd for the Rays in 2012 (ahead of Longoria, Pena, Jennings, Joyce and Scott). Loney has never been a home run hitter, but one thing he has done consistently is drive in runs, a skill the Rays need badly. Put him behind Jennings, Escobar, Zobrist and Longoria and their Runs Scored numbers will go up. The average MLB salary in 2012 was $3.44M, and it seems to me it’s quite a bargain to get a player for $2M (even $3M with all the incentives) that, with even just an average season, could be in your top 3 in Avg, H, R, 2B and RBI .


    December 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Thank goodness the 2 strikeout kings Pena and Upton are gone. Pena could still be a good player if he was “smart enough” to remember when he had a great year hitting straight away rather than trying to pull everything. Upton will be in the Atlanta “doghouse” very soon. Looney will benefit on weaker pitching in AL after a couple of months and Tropicana is a lot easier to hit in than the NL west coast parks which amount to 100 games a year playing as a Dodger.

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