James Loney Emerging as the Top Choice For the Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN says that clubs who have talked to the Pirates believe that James Loney is emerging as their top choice.

Stark mentions Adam Lind and Mitch Moreland, who would both require trades. Lind is under contract for $7 M in 2014, and has club options in 2015 ($7.5 M, $1 M buyout) and 2016 ($8 M, $0.5 M buyout). Moreland is under team control for three more seasons, and becomes expendable with the recent addition of Prince Fielder in Texas.

Loney would easily be the best choice of the three. He wouldn’t cost prospects, and has had the best results of the group. He had a poor season in 2012, but that was sandwiched between two years with a 2.0+ WAR. Moreland has never been above an 0.7 WAR in a single season. Lind had a 1.8 WAR in 2013, but hasn’t been above an 0.1 WAR in the previous three years, basically playing like a replacement level player.

Even if you consider Lind’s 2013 season legit, he had less value than Loney. I’m sure the Pirates could get Loney for the same price as Lind, without giving up anything in a trade.

I wrote earlier in the off-season that Loney looks like the perfect fit for the Pirates. He can platoon with Gaby Sanchez, has good numbers against right-handers and good numbers in his career away from Dodger Stadium. He also has some of the best defense in the league at first base, which would give the Pirates good defense at the position no matter which platoon player they were starting. The defense makes up for the lack of power, especially when you consider that the Pirates tend to favor ground ball pitchers.

UPDATE 1:25 PM: Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says that the Rays are “hopeful” they can re-sign Loney. In the article he mentions that the Rays can’t spend as much as other teams. So far I haven’t seen any pitch forks and torches down here in the Tampa area after a small market baseball executive dared to say that they couldn’t afford market rate for a player.

UPDATE 3:05 PM: Jeff Passan says that Loney is looking for three years and $27-30 M.

A key thing to remember here is that player demands and what a player eventually receives are two different things.

  • I wish they would try to get Logan Morrison. I’ve always like him as a hitter. When he is healthy, he is an excellent run producer. Coming off of an injury season, his value right now is as low as it will ever be.

    I also agree they should sign Mat Gamel, whose value is as low now as it will ever be…and if Mitch Moreland could be had cheaply, get him too.

    I’m not a James Loney fan. I’d rather have Garrett Jones personally.

  • Loney doesn’t project enough power to be a good fit at 1B for the Pirates. Let’s see what Lambo can do at the position. Frankly I will be happy if the Pirates don’t do anything this winter.

  • James Loney vs. righties and Gaby Sanchez vs. lefties in 2013 combines for an .862 OPS. Loney would be a great pickup.

    • Loney’s career OPS vs LHP is 793, and that includes over 900 in 2006-2007, before he started sucking. He has sucked since 2008, and will continue to do so.

      • He just said he would be platooning vs. Righties, his splits vs lefties don’t matter to us because he would hardly ever play against them.

        • I’m pretty sure he meant vs RHP. Anyways, in 2008 he had an .815 OPS vs RHP, 2009-.750, 2010-.785, 2011-.816, 2012-.662, 2013-.797. The only below-average season Loney has had since 2008 was 2012 which was the first season after he was involved in a car crash and was found with head trauma. I’m not sure why you think he “sucks” so much.

  • The OLD Pirates would give Loney a 3-year deal. The Burnitz, Pat Meares, Derek Bell, Joe Randa, etc Pirates would do that.

    TODAY’s Pirates don’t give contracts to stiffs, not anymore.

  • So Loney’s already come down a year and $10 – $13 million in just a few weeks. Give him a few more and he could be down to 2 years/$14 mil, or even less (see Tim’s column about the 1B market being a buyer’s market). Wait ’em out Neal.

    • Actually, he didn’t come down any in price. He still wants $10M per year. The original deal he wanted was 4-years at $10M annually…now he wants, supposedly, $10M annually over 3-years. He can have $22-23M over 3 years…but $30? No thanks!

      • I wouldn’t even give Loney an NRI, much less anything guaranteed.

      • I understand we’re splitting hairs here Jared, but he has come down. Coming down in years is almost as meaningful as coming down in dollars. As an extreme example, the Bucs could survive a 1 year $20 million mistake for Aki Iwamura, but couldn’t survive a 10 year $200 million mistake for Cano, even though Cano would actually return something significant on the investment. Thus a 2/$20 mil contract is MUCH more palatable for a team (and thus a come down for a player) than a 4/$40 mil or even a 3/$30 mil.

        All of that said, Loney’s not worth nearly that amount. And unless Boston or Seattle sign Loney or Hart, the free agent 1B don’t have the upper hand right now.

  • From Jeff Pasan:
    “Source: James Loney started offseason seeking a four-year, $40M deal. Belief is he’s now seeking something in the three-year, $27-30M range.”

    • At $9-10M per year I have no interest…keep lookin’ Mr. Loney. I would much rather spend the $7M plus the trade pieces to get Lind than give Loney $10M.

  • Has there been any indication that Lonely would cost more that 7-8mil/ year?

    People are making it out like he’s going to get 10-12mil…I know Morneau just got overpaid, but I don’t think Tim is suggesting the Bucs break the bank to sign him — nor would they.

  • 3 more questions:
    1) If Loney is good defensively, why does BR have him negative dWAR almost every year and cumulatively for his career?

    2) I don’t pretend to understand advanced defensive metrics, but know most people value UZR over dWAR. Where do you find UZR #s?

    3) Obviously there can’t be a bidding war between the Bucs and Rays, but if it comes down to those 2 teams, what will it be? A bidding slapfight? A bidding catfight? A bidding thumbwar?

    • 1. First base is usually adjusted negatively as a defensive position. If you compare Loney’s defensive value to a player at another position, Loney will definitely be lower. If you compare him to other first basemen, he is going to be higher. The dWAR is looking at his value compared to all players, and considering his position. It’s not looking at his value compared to other first basemen.

      2. UZR can be found on FanGraphs.

      3. The Pirates.

      • What would you give for Loney, Tim? Years and dollars.

        2 years and 15.5M for me…or 3 years and $23M.

        • I would even do 3 years/$24 million. I don’t think that contract would hurt them in the long term and in the short term they really don’t have much except for Sanchez coupled with a Lambo option and MAYBE a Josh Bell switch down the road. But of course that dude hasn’t played about Low A before I get yelled at.

        • I would hope a prospect like Bell would be ready by year 3.

          • You would think. I think we’ve been spoiled the last couple years with our top prospects coming up coming up and really contributing. I know that’s what’s supposed to happen but I don’t suppose that’s a lock with Bell. I still find it surprising that we really have no one in the system that we’re excited about that can play first. But I don’t really know everyone elses farm looks like either.

          • Bell could transition well to 1B. He’s got the size and the athleticism for the position. Even though he was only in West Virginia last year…at 20 he still hit in the high 270’s with great gap power (37 2B, 2 3B, and 12 HRs)…he will get more power, I think, as he heals more from his knee injury and gets more comfortable. If he can get to the 20-HR range with that gap power he’d be a great offensive 1B option.

      • Thanks Tim.
        1) I though that might be it.
        2) Cool, I only ever looked at Hitting and Pitching on Fangraphs
        3) I think you missed my attempted joke

  • Can’t be hard to outspend Tampa. Make it happen Neal, would love a platoon of Gaby and Loney.

  • If KC signs Beltran for 3 years I’d hope NH would get Moore on the phone about Billy Butler. He’s #1 on my wish list.

    • I think if they signed Beltran they wouldn’t be looking to move talent out of that team.

  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times write that the Rays are “hopeful” that James Loney will be returning to Tampa.

    • To quote Grumpy Old Men, they can hope in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one works out for them.

  • Loney is the perfect fit and the player I have expected all along. I expect to see him signed with the Bucs. For those that want guys like Moreland and Lind. Why give up something in a trade when Loney can be had without giving anything up. Not to mention in my opinion are lower options. I also see a ton of people who want to just ship Melancon out of here. I don’t understand why? Our bullpen was the best in the league and a huge reason for the 94 win season. Why break it up?

    • For me the reason why is this: I think Melancon’s value is at its peak right now, unless he were to have another great season and then maybe he’d have a little higher value, and I am skeptical about him going forward. I think the Melancon we saw at the end of the year may be the Melancon we have going forward…some may say how problems were because of fatigue, but I am not so certain. Certainly he did pitch a lot in 2013, but I just question whether he is not more the pitcher we saw at the very end of the year and in the playoffs opposed to who we saw throughout 2013. I also think because of the Pirates bullpen track record and the depth there that trading a member of that Pen for a 1B with upside would not be a huge loss…trading from depth is always the best way to trade, obviously.

      For me I just like Lind better than Loney…although I do like Loney’s defensive value…remember the stats I posted for Loney above with RISP and RISP/2outs…consider that last year Lind batted .902 OPS with runners on, .979 OPS with RISP and .896 OPS with RISP/2out (that over 199 at bats for the year)…Loney’s numbers (posted above) were over 245 at bats

    • RE: Melancon, there’s a perception that you can just pick up anyone from the trash heap, make him your 8th inning guy, and he’ll give you a sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIP.

      • Well, the Pirates have done just that the last two years. I also think there are other internal candidates for the 8th inning job.

        I am not saying that Melancon for Lind is the perfect trade value-wise…I am just saying that I think trading Melancon might not be such a bad idea.

        • Indeed – sell high. I just think the internal candidate for the LHH side of the 1B platoon (Lambo), if he can beat out some quality competition in ST (Gamel), is superior to Loney, and he won’t even cost you Melancon.

          If we were talking about Matt Adams, on the other hand…

          • Not sure if you were joking with the Matt Adams comment or not, but here are the last 3 years against RHP for him (he’s only had a little more than 1 year) and 2 guys mentioned here often:

            Adams .290/.347/.500
            Ike Davis .257/.361/.490
            Lind .280/.344/.493

            Pretty similar. As far as the LH hitting side of a platoon, any of them would do fine, and better than Loney, though it doesn’t take defense into account. Davis and Lind also seem like their power would play up more at PNC, while Loney wouldn’t as much. He seems more of a spray hitter, though I’m sure a few fly outs would turn into doubles off the Clemente wall or HR’s over it, just not as many as Lind or Davis.

            • Adams was just a joke, pipe dream etc. There’s no way the Pirates would be able to pry him away from STL – the guy is a stud in the making.

  • This is a crazy idea, but just something I thought of. Neil Huntington likes to get bargains and likes to try to prey on some other teams…I wonder if the Pirates could pull of a decent trade with the New York Yankees for Mark Teixeira. Now, before we go crazy and tell me how ridiculous this is…Tex’s UZR and UZR+ are both better than Loney’s and his power and OPS would be welcomed additions to the lineup. Even at his worst, when he’s been “going down hill” he’s been a 800-.810 OPS guy. Remember, the Yankees pitched in a ton of money for the last two years of AJ Burnett’s contract (I believe they paid 8.5-8.75M last year, correct?)…what if the Pirates were to take Tex off their hands, provide them Malancon and a prospect and the Yanks pick up 11-12M per year of Tex salary for the remaining 3 years. That means the Pirates would get Tex at $11M for a player who, at worst, is a 2.7-3.0 WAR player and is better than Napoli or Loney. Maybe it would take more than we would want to give up to be able to get the Yankees to unload Tex for the right price $$$-wise, but just a thought. The Yankees could use the extra savings to pony up more for Cano or Choo or Morales/Napoli. Again, its unlikely that it could/would happen…just a thought based on past deals with the Yankees (AJ Burnett)…

    • 2.7 WAR for Tex in 2014 seems like wishful thinking.

      • Why? Thats what he was at in 2012 and Fangraphs is already predicting him to be a 2.0 WAR player…and I think he would benefit from a move to the NL. Anyways, it was just an outside-of-the-box idea.The Yankees have been adamant that they would try to get under the $189M luxury tax payroll for this upcoming season, but with the recent Ellsbury and McCann signings and another FA on the way (Cano or Choo according to most rumors) that number would seem very difficult for the Yankees to attain.

        Anyways, his wrist injury might be bad enough that you’re right that he couldn’t produce the numbers I would be thinking he could produce. It was just, like I said, an outside-of-the-box trade idea based on past dealing with the Yankees.

        • I like the thinking outside the box, but I’m sure the Bucs would want some certainty on the health issue. Wrist for a hitter could be a flashing danger sign.

          Question (probably for Tim, but I know a lot of other people here are very knowledgeable) – How would the Yanks picking up half of Tex’s contract affect the luxury tax calculation? Would their portion count against their figure or since he’s not on their roster, does he not count for them?

          • The whole salary for Teixeira would count against the Pirates. The Yankees would send the Pirates cash in the deal (if they picked up $11M per season that would be $33M total cash to the Pirates).

          • I believe it would count for their payroll.

            • The amount included in the trade would, correct? So if they traded $33M, $11M per year…they’d be charged that to their payroll numbers each year. I think.

  • Loney hasn’t cracked 800 OPS since 2007.

  • Cato the Elder
    December 4, 2013 12:48 pm

    Well, that sounds about right.

  • Prefer Lind. I like the power in his bat and his split #s. I just do not really like Loney that much, although I guess that does not matter too much in the end, haha. Loney at any more than 6.5-7M is too much, in my opinion.

  • The Pirates would like a lot of players. Are they willing to pay market value for them is the question. The going rate for a plus 2 war is 6.5m or more for 2 or 3 seasons. My gut tells me they won’t pay that. Why would James Loney come here to be a platoon player when he can go to teams like the Brewers and start. It won’t happen unless Loney doesn’t have any other options.

    • They paid $8.5 M a year for Russell Martin last year, along with $6.5 M per year for Liriano (originally $7 M per year before his injury).

      • Your best guess on what it would take to get Loney in years and $……….

        • 2/$16m ought to get it done. There is now more supply on the market than demand, thanks to the Tigers moving Cabrera to 1B and the Twins doing the same with Mauer. On the demand side you have Boston, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Tampa and Houston as a “want to, but not need to.” On the supply side there’s Napoli, Loney, Hart, Ike Davis, Jones, Reynolds, Overbay, and possibly Moreland and Lind (no reports that either of them are being actively shopped, unlike Davis). And you know Tampa isn’t paying market rate for either of the top two.

          And it would be a good signing. Just take a look at the stats from last year. Where did the Bucs struggle at the plate?

          1) making contact (3rd highest K rate in NL);
          2) hitting RHP (9th in NL in OPS, vs. 2nd in NL OPS vs. LHP)
          3) 1B defense (3rd worst in NL by UZR)

          Loney is an improvement in all 3 areas.

          Where the Pirates are NOT weak is power – 3rd in the NL in HR, 6th in SLG (and within .006 of 2nd).

          He’s an undervalued commodity because he’s a non-power bat at a power position, but the Bucs don’t need that much power from 1B because they get it throughout the lineup. What they do need is a guy who won’t strike out with runners on second and third with one out. How many friggin’ times did that happen last year?

          • Forgot Kendrys Morales as well…however, there is only one problem with the supply/demand discussion: only Hart and Loney require zero pick compensation.

            I would really prefer Hart in the FA market or Lind/Davis in the trade market. I do not think the cost for either Lind or Davis will be that great.

          • Loney also hit .800+OPS with RISP and with RISP/2out last year…better numbers than Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Russell Martin…actually that would have been the best on the team for a starter, I do believe.

          • Stephen, it sounds like Loney may be the “perfect fit” for the Bucs 1B needs, not that walking hip injury guy. Maybe you should be a Boston Globe writer.

          • Gamel would outhit Loney, at a fraction of the cost.

            • Yeah, Gamel’s last year at AAA was almost as good as Lambo’s, though Gamel was a year older and in the PCL not the IL.

              • Indeed – let Lambo and Gamel fight it out, and let someone overpay for Derek Bell, er, James Loney’s wiffle-ball bat.

          • I agree wholeheartedly!!!! Power is great, but I wanted to take the longest, rustiest nail I could find on countless occasions and poke my eyes out with it when we left runners stranded because of an inability to play situational baseball. This lineup is in dire need of hitters who can make contact and put the ball in play. Let the homeruns take care of themselves. Give me an Allen Craig–13 homeruns but 97 r.b.i’s.– any day of the year!!!!!!!!

          • Agreed. Pedro won’t drop off much IF ANY in the power department. I would expect more doubles. I also thin Walker is going to have his first 20 Hrs season. 16 last year and he dealt with injuries. I’m usually right with breakout seasons. I have to think Cutch’s power numbers will go up as well. Lambo is going to add power and so is Marte. It’s all kinda scary to think about

      • And they will pay some pretty hefty dollars for McCutchen in a year or two. I also remember a guy named Morris that that had a 10mil contract that the Bucs ate.

        • Then again, McCutchen really isn’t “hefty dollars” when you consider his WAR is higher than Ellsbury’s over fewer seasons! Now, McCutchen will be hefty dollars when the Yankees or someone swoop in when he hits free agency and give him $23-25M per year!

          • $13 and $14 million are hefty dollars irrespective of the return. Just because they’re spent wiser than the Yanks will spend them, doesn’t diminish the amounts.

            • Oh, I know. I am more just interested in how much McCutchen will make in a couple of years…think of him vs. Ellsbury. My god…I mean he could be looking at Robinson Cano type money (doubtful, but possible).

              • That’s why we should enjoy Andrew while we can. He’ll be an ex Pirate in a few years, the Yankees or Boston will be needing a CF by then I’m guessing.

          • Won’t happen ! Pirates will pay him enough to keep him around and it won’t have to be 20+ million a year. Cutch doesn’t care about raking in the biggest deal he can get which is rare in today’s sports world. I can’t be sure but I think Cutch is a Pittsburgh Pirate lifer Wait and see

            • That won’t happen. We would trade him at some point to use his value to replenish the system before he would stay for life.

  • I like Lind, depending on the cost.

    • I don’t know why it would cost more than a major league reliever like Melancon.

      • Trading Melancon for Lind would be a disastrous move.

        • No it wouldn’t . He’s never going to pitch like he did in 2013 again. 1.39 ERA ! NO CHANCE. He throws a 92-94 mph fastball which is fine from a guy with a good cutter like he has but SELL HIGH We saw what happened in his last 5 appearances and in the playoffs.

  • Would love to see this happen.

  • Loney would be a good move at this point, but you never know what Neal has up his sleeve, could be extensions that they are working on that is holding up everything.