MLB: Loney fills in Tampa first-base hole

Tampa Bay fans hoping to see a big-name player come in to replace incumbent first baseman Carlos Pena may be dismayed with the news that despite MLB trade rumours linking big names with the club, it is free agent James Loney who has been signed up to fill the gap.

Loney, who rose to Major League Baseball level with the LA Dodgers back in 2006, found himself out of favour as the California club desperately cut their wage bill, ending the 2012 season at Boston. Thirty appearances and a .264 on-base percentage for the Red Sox wasn’t enough to convince manager John Farrell to keep him on, and so Loney became a free agent this offseason.

Many consider Loney to be a Dodgers cast-off, a no hoper with very little chance of making it back into the MLB spotlight. He is seen as unable to perform under pressure and live up to expectations. Yet in joining the Rays, Loney will not receive the sort of game-by-game criticism and analysis reserved for LA players and this could in fact help him return to his former self.

For Dodgers fans will remember the impact he made as first baseman back in 2007 turning out some impressive MLB scores. He smashed 15 homers in 96 games and recorded a career-best .916 OPS. For the then-23-year-old, things were looking good.

Unfortunately over the seasons this lefty has never been able to fully replicate the form showed in that breakthrough season. Between 2008 and 2009 he hit a respectable 13 home runs per season yet also made in excess of 300 games. Last season his place was under threat and the Dodgers rightly let him go after recording a career-low .646 OPS for 2012.

Loney still has a lot to prove and at 28 has a good number of seasons left in him. In signing a one-year, $2 million deal, Loney knows he must perform or will be out of a job come next fall.

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