According to a tweet from Tim Brown of Yahoo!, since confirmed by Ken Rosenthal as well, the Tampa Bay Rays have kicked off their Winter Meetings with a rather Rays-y, uninspiring move, picking up former below-average, current replacement-level first baseman James Loney, formerly of Boston and Los Angeles.
The Rays’ track record is too solid for me to guffaw too heartily, but… it’s not exactly a move that has me shaking in my boots, as a Jays fan.
This, on the other hand, kinda does– and could make sense for both a Rays club and a Nationals club with some areas of surplus to work with:
James Loney and Rays close to one-year deal….Loney would replace Carlos Pena at 1B…also talking to Nats on starter for Morse & Espinosa
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 3, 2012
He wasn’t as great last year, but the .390 wOBA Morse of 2011 would certainly go a long way to help the Rays, and Espinosa pretty nice piece, albeit one who took a step backwards with the bat in 2011– worse walk and strikeout rates and lower ISO, OBP, and wOBA, despite a rather higher BABIP– maintaining the 3.5 win level of his rookie year with a big fluctiation up in his UZR.
Of course, the concerns I raise here don’t look quite as major when you given some context: Morse’s last three seasons at the plate have each been better than the last five from the man he’d hypothetically replace, Carlos Pena. And Espinosa would certainly find a nice home in the Rays’ infield that’s losing Jeff Keppinger. So… I can see why the two teams could potentially be talking, even if the price for Tampa might be as steep as James Shields.
The refreshingly new litmus test this off-season, however, is whether or not one of the Jays’ rivals makes a deal that takes a bit of a shine off what our club has already done, and maybe I’m being naive about it, but if this is something Tampa genuinely explores, I can’t say I mind too terribly.
So… there’s that.