It appears James Loney will stay with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The free agent first baseman will sign with the Rays for three years and $21 million, pending a physical, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The signing addresses the Rays’ most pressing offseason need, one day after MLB’s winter meetings concluded in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Loney, 29, was Tampa Bay’s top target at the position. He hit .299 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI last season, his first with the Rays after spending the 2012 campaign with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. An eight-year veteran, he’s a career .285 hitter with 86 home runs and 534 RBI.
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In addition to his offensive production, he was named an American League Gold Glove Award finalist last season. His defensive skill fits well with the Rays’ vision, which produced AL Gold Glove Award finalists at each infield position in the most recent campaign.
On Thursday, Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations, said Tampa Bay appeared to be nearing a resolution at the position.
“I think within the next week, I feel very confident that we’ll be able to figure something out,” he said. “I think the conversations have reached a point where I don’t see them dragging on much longer in that time period.”
The Rays figured to have strong competition for Loney’s services. With Corey Hart’s departure to the Seattle Mariners with a one-year deal, the Milwaukee Brewers were looking to fill their need with top-end talent. The Pittsburgh Pirates also were reportedly interested.
But it seems the Rays have secured their man. Earlier in the week, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon expressed his interest to see Loney return.
“He played really well,” Maddon said Monday. “If there is some way that he falls back, that would be great. But I don’t know. He’s deserving of what he gets. I think last year he showed everybody how good of a baseball player he is.”
Loney was reportedly seeking a three-year deal worth between $27 million and $30 million. If the reported contract figures are accurate, they still represent a significant increase in pay for him after he signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Rays before last season.