Rays Edging Closer To First Base Solution
The Rays First Base Options Day Three Winter Meetings
Yesterday Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said of the first base decision that the team was ” getting more clarity I wouldn’t characterize anything as imminent. I think we’re getting more information that’s helpful in our decision making process.”
Joe Maddon said that he’d prefer a left handed hitting first baseman and when Andrew Friedman was asked if he shared the sentiment he said, “Ideally, we’d like to get more left handed – continue that. That being said it’s really about feeling comfortable against right handed pitching so obviously there are right handed hitters that handle right handed pitching well. Just simply said, I think its safe to assume that we’d prefer a left handed hitter that being said it’s more about the ability to hit right handed pitching.”
James Loney – Left-Handed Bat – Free Agent
Spent the 2013 season with the Tampa Bay Rays hitting .299/.348/.430. Last season in 452 plate appearances he posted a slash line against right handed pitching of .299/.348/.430.
In his career he has hit right handed pitching very well posting a slash line of .296/.341/.442 but despite a productive season versus left handed pitching (.299/.399/.390) he has struggled in his career .256/.308/.361.
Loney has been linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. Reports were he initially wanted a 4-year/$40-million dollar deal as he entered the market and it is assumed the price has dropped.
Joe Maddon has said that he hopes that Loney falls back to the Rays because he’d love to have him but added that Loney deserves to get paid because he proved last year that he is a very good baseball player.
Loney fits exactly what the Rays are looking for. A good bat versus right handed pitching and a solid defender at first base. He would not cost a prospect to acquire as he is a free agent. If the Rays and Loney can come to a dollar figure in the neighborhood of 2yrs/$14M with a 3rd year option with a club buyout then I believe a deal can be done.
Corey Hart – Right Handed Bat – Free Agent
Hart missed the entire 2013 season due to left knee surgery to repair his meniscus as well as the often complicated microfracture surgery.
In his career he has posted an excellent slash line of .267/.320/.478 against right handed pitching. In addition to hitting right handed pitching well he crushes left handed pitching posting a slash line of .308/.370/.526. In his last full season (2012) he hit .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI.
Hart supplies the most upside of any name on the list but has stated his desire to remain, even taking less money, with the Brewers. He isn’t a great defensive first baseman but since he can hit lefties and righties equally well he would be in the lineup every day.
Ike Davis – Left Handed Bat – Trade Target
Davis had a down year in 2012 hitting just .205/.326/.334 with just 9 home runs in 377 plate appearances and missed the last month of the season with an oblique injury. In 2012 he was much better hitting .227/.308/.462 with 32 home runs in 584 plate appearances.
In his career he’s hit right handed pitching well at .256/.356/.471 but has struggled against left handed pitching hitting just .204/.268/.334.
He is under team control for the next 3 seasons and MLBTraderumors.com estimates that he will receive $3.5M in arbitration.
The Rays would have to give up very little to acquire Davis in part to his poor season and secondly because of his Super 2 status pushing his salary north of where the Rays would like to pay. Additionally, he isn’t a very good defensive first baseman and would probably have to sit against most left handed pitchers.
Logan Morrison – Left Handed Bat – Trade Target
Morrison struggled with the Miami Marlins in 2013 appearing in just 85 games after recovering from surgery on his patellar tendon in September of 2012. Overall he hit .242/.333/.375 and against right handed pitching he hit .261/.354/.423.
In his career he has hit right handed pitching .251/.340/.446 and has not had a dramatic fall off against left handed pitching hitting .244/.329/.378.
He is under team control for the next 3 seasons and is projected by MLBTraderumors.com to make $1.7M in arbitration this year.
After Corey Hart and James Loney Morrison heads to the top of my list. He has a low salary and has shown the ability to hit equally well against both lefties and righties. The Marlins may have a higher desire in terms of the prospect required to acquire him which may scare the Rays off. Another aspect of Morrison is that he is another free spirit character that would fit in well with the Rays way of doing things.
Mitch Moreland – Left Handed Bat – Trade Target
Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 for the Texas Rangers adding in 23 home runs in 518 plate appearances. He was better versus right handed pitching .227/.300/.452 than he was against left handed pitching .241/.297/.404.
In his career he hits right handed pitching .258/.325/.463 much better than left handed pitching .236/.295/.362.
He is under team control for the next 3 seasons and MLBTraderumors.com estimates him to make $2.7M in arbitration in 2014.
He does have a bit of power and is an adequate first baseman but his struggles against left handed pitching may require him to sit against some left handed starters.
This may be a case where the Rangers will be able to find a trade partner that is willing to give up the required major league ready player or high level prospect(s) in exchange for Moreland but that team most likely would not be the Rays.