While news of James Loney's return first broke several days ago, the two sides officially finalized the deal yesterday to Loney's 3 year $21 million contract.
Loney is slated to make $1 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016, and receives a $5 million signing bonus. For the 29 year-old first baseman, this represents a significant rise in salary and offers him some job security. Loney signed with the Rays for only $2 million prior to the 2013 season, and according to baseballreference, his highest annual salary came in 2012, when he made $6.375 while splitting time with the Dodgers and the Red Sox.
The Rays signed Loney as a bounce back candidate last season as he arrived coming off a year when he managed only a 70 wRC+ and -0.4 WAR. With little internal competition, Loney was given the first base position with limited rest days. He excelled and quickly became a fan favorite, hitting .299/.348/.430 (118 wRC+) and producing 2.7 WAR in 158 games.
For a while, it was unclear what direction the Rays would take to filling their position vacancy at first base. Loney's agent set a rumored price tag of 3 years and $30 million and drew interest from several other teams. Meanwhile, the Rays checked in on the trade and free agent markets, with Logan Morrison, Justin Smoak, and Mitch Moreland among speculated candidates. However, Loney made the choice to stick with the Rays, choosing their offer over several similar ones. According to the Ray's official site, Loney stated "I think I just kind of realized where I'd like to be... I knew the team was going to be competitive. So when you have those kind of factors it definitely makes it a lot easier."
This move keeps the Rays infield quartet of Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist, and James Loney intact. With the first base issue resolved, it also allows the Rays to focus on their few remaining holes and a possible David Price trade.
Loney's 2014 Projections:
Steamer: .271/.328/.398, 103 wRC+.
Oliver: .292/.347/.420, 112 wRC+.