Jayson Stark of ESPN says that clubs who have talked to the Pirates believe that James Loney is emerging as their top choice.
Clubs that have talked to #Pirates believe James Loney emerging as their top choice at 1B. Heard they've also asked on Adam Lind & Moreland
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 4, 2013
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.
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.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 4, 2013
A key thing to remember here is that player demands and what a player eventually receives are two different things.