- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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I'm a little surprised Loney wasn't able to get a little better contract after a solid 2013 -- two years and $20 million or three years and $30 million, something like that -- but Loney remains a bit of an enigma and he doesn't give you the power you'd like from a first baseman, so teams hate to spend money on a guy like him. Still, I'd rather have Loney for three years at $7 million per season than Justin Morneau for two years at $6.25 million per season (as the Rockies gave him).
While Loney hit .299/.348/.430 in 2013 and plays good defense, he also hit .249/.293/.336 in 2012. The fear is that he may be more 2012 than 2013. But as Tommy Rancel pointed out over at The Process Report:
Perception aside, there appears to be little wrong with this arrangement. Loney is an average -- or slightly better -- player being paid at what appears to be market rate. The comparison to Casey Kotchman will be made, but that is rather lazy. Some will quickly point out Loney’s disastrous 2012, and sudden rebound as too positive of a correction, but looking at each season in which he has logged over 300 plate appearances, it is 2012 and not 2013 that jumps out as more of the outlier.
Season by wRC+
2007 – 137
2008 – 102
2009 – 103
2010 – 97
2011 – 110
2012 – 70
2013 – 115
Loney isn't a great player but he's durable and, at 29, three years younger than Morneau, and plays better defense. For a team like the Rays, it's a safe investment.
2. Royals and Omar Infante agree to four-year, $30 million deal.
Infante has had an interesting career. A regular in the big leagues at 22 with the Tigers, he had a bad season at age 23 and the Tigers turned him into a utility player, eventually trading him to the Cubs (for Jacque Jones, who hit .165 in 24 games with Detroit). The Cubs immediately traded him to the Braves. From 2006 through 2009 he averaged just 250 plate appearances a season. I'm pretty sure at that point Infante never imagined he'd be signing a $30 million contract. Anyway, he was a controversial All-Star in 2010 for the Braves, traded to the Marlins for Dan Uggla and then traded with Anibal Sanchez back to the Tigers in 2012.
He's been a good player the past four seasons, averaging 2.7 WAR per year as a good contact hitter who plays a reliable second base. But those were his age-27 to age-31 seasons. The Royals are banking him being productive from ages 32 to 35. The Royals have now handed $62 million to Infante and Jason Vargas, which probably sounds more ridiculous than it is. Both are average-ish players, but Kansas City is banking on strong aging curves from both. While it's easy to criticize both moves, these are the types of players a team like the Royals are going to land in free agency.
Infante hit .318 with a .345 OBP in 2013 (he doesn't walk much, obviously) so had value on offense; but he hit .276 in 2011 and .274 in 2012 and didn't have as much value. The Royals needed a second baseman so Infante will help; it's just a question of how much he'll help.
In his past three years with the Yankees, Logan averaged 45.1 innings per season while posting a 3.51 ERA. So the Yankees viewed him as a LOOGY, although he's not really a dominant LOOGY; lefties hit .238/.300/.404 off him with 10 home runs in 302 at-bats over those three years. Among lefty relievers with at least 100 innings over the past three years, he's 33rd in OPS allowed against left-handed batters. He's not a bad pitcher and he's good enough against right-handers that his role could potentially be expanded, keeping in mind that Joe Girardi used him very carefully.
The issue with giving Logan $16.5 million is simple: Why spend your money on relief pitching? OK, the Rockies had the worst bullpen ERA in the National League at 4.23. But some of that is pitching in Coors Field and some of that is that Rockies relievers had to throw more innings than any other team. The Rockies claim they have a limited payroll and decided to spend their new TV money on: (A) a first baseman who has regressed into a barely league-average hitter; (B) a starting pitcher (Brett Anderson) who has made 24 starts the past three seasons; (C) a LOOGY.
I've been critical of the Rockies, although I will say they went 74-88 while the bottom of the rotation was beyond horrible. With better starting pitcher, they could suddenly morph into contender status. I don't see it, but you never know.
1. Rays and James Loney agree on a three-year, $21 million contract.I'm a little surprised Loney wasn't able to get a little better contract after a solid 2013 -- two years and $20 million or three years and $30 million, something like that -- but Loney remains a bit of an enigma and he doesn't give you the power you'd like from a first baseman, so teams hate to spend money on a guy like him.