Rays agree to three-year contract with James Loney

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

The Rays are close to bringing back James Loney.
The Rays are bringing back James Loney. (USATSI)

MORE: FA tracker: position players | FA tracker: pitchers | Winter Meetings updates

The Rays and first baseman James Loney have agreed to a new three-year contract, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has confirmed. Buster Olney of ESPN first reported the two sides were on the verge of an agreement. The deal is worth $21 million, including a $5 million signing bonus.

Loney, 29, hit .299/.348/.430 (118 OPS+) with 13 home runs in 158 games for Tampa Bay in 2013. He hit .276/.333/.399 (99 OPS+) from 2008-12, below average production for a first baseman. The Rays are doubling down after walking away from players like Casey Kotchman and Jeff Keppinger in the past, guys who had similar unexpectedly big seasons on one-year deals.

The Pirates and Brewers were also in the mix for Loney. Kendrys Morales is the best first baseman left on the free agent market, but he might be more DH than first baseman at this point. Plus he'll cost a draft pick to sign. Kotchman, Carlos Pena, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds are alternatives.

With Loney off the board, the trade market for Mets first baseman Ike Davis should pick up. The team has been shopping him this winter and had talks with Milwaukee about him at the Winter Meetings this week. Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland could also be first base trade candidates.

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