How Much Bargaining Power Does James Loney Have?

Yesterday the Seattle Mariners added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, then claimed they would use both first base options in the outfield. That removed two first base options from the market, leaving the Pirates, Brewers, and the Rays to decide between James Loney, Ike Davis, and Mitch Moreland.

Loney has been asking for three years and $27-30 M total. It would seem that he now has a ton of leverage to get such a deal. However, none of the three teams looking for a first baseman can afford that price. The Rays have already said they can’t afford Loney at his current asking price. The Pirates haven’t commented on him, but they have been rotating between Loney and other first base options. You would think that if they wanted to pay $9-10 M per year, they would have. There is also the idea that the Brewers could out-spend the Rays and Pirates, but Tom Haudricourt says that money is an issue with them.

In an article on the Brewers’ situation, Haudricourt says that they will look to make a deal soon at first base. They are meeting with the Mets today to discuss Ike Davis. Previously the Mets asked for right-handed pitcher Tyler Thornburg, but the Brewers balked at the deal.

As for the Rays, they were looking at other options beyond Davis and Loney, with rumors that they were looking at Mark Reynolds this week.

It seems that the Brewers are leaning toward Ike Davis right now, or at the least they aren’t willing to meet Loney’s demands. Haudricourt said they don’t want to get into a bidding war for Loney. If Milwaukee gets Davis, that would put the Pirates in a good position to land Loney at a better price than $9-10 M per year. Houston would be the only other possible landing spot, although they have Jonathan Singleton and Chris Carter as internal options so it’s not a guarantee that they add another first baseman.

If it comes down to the Rays and the Pirates, then the Pirates should have the financial advantage for Loney. I’m guessing they also could out-bid the Rays and have the highest bid without meeting the $9-10 M per year asking price.

On the surface it would appear that Loney has some bargaining power right now, due to being the best first base option on the market. However, that doesn’t matter when the three teams looking for a first baseman all say that they can’t afford your asking price. I don’t imagine Loney will sign anytime soon, since he would have no reason to sign a deal quickly. If Milwaukee does land Davis, I would think that would increase the chances of the Pirates being able to get Loney.

UPDATE 1:19 PM: Will Carroll says that he’s hearing the Pirates are more focused on Mitch Moreland than Loney. He says they prefer Loney, but not at that price.

As long as there are alternatives for the Pirates, Brewers, and Rays, I don’t think Loney has much leverage with his asking price.

  • My concern right now is that we end up with a 1st baseman who gives us less offensive production than Garrett Jones averaged over the past 4 years. I’m going to put defense aside for now, because our glaring weakness that we needed to deal with during the offseason is offense, not defense.

    I don’t trust any of the defense valuation calculations out there, but I do feel that the offensive advanced metrics are better, so what was Garrets offensive WAR the past 4 years on average compared to whats on the market right now? anyone?

    • All you really need to know about Jones is that he performed above league average in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he was marginally above league average. In 2010 and 2013 he was below – and significantly below in both cases. So it’s difficult, if not impossible, to project a performance for 2014 since he’s either fairly hot or very cold season to season. Given his highest value was 5 years ago, if you’re only counting the last 4 years, he was pretty much a negative.

  • I can’t convince myself that any feasible external option would be worth his cost when the Pirates have Lambo who will make the league minimum. It’s not a matter of saving money. It’s a matter of making the best use of the team’s limited resources.

  • Bucco Boyd 1979
    December 12, 2013 5:42 pm

    Loney will provide solid defense, good on base percentage, a good batting average, and will put the ball in play. All things that this lineup sorely needs. Go with a stop gap for 2014 and we will be having this same conversation next year this time. Sign Loney for three years and that will give us a solid player on both side of the ball and will also give the farm system time to develop a first basemen. Loney may not be ideal, but given the limited first base talent that is available, he is the best choice and he would be an upgrade over last season.

    • See that’s the thing- I’d RATHER have this conversation again next year, when I might like the available options better. Loney is being treated like he’s a bit more rock solid than he really is, IMO.

      Granted, being a good defender limits your downside. But Loney could easily fall right back into being a miserable hitter. I’m sure there were plenty of fans from a handful of cities who discussed trading for Garrett Jones last winter based on his 27-homer campaign. They probably said things like, “at the very least he’s a 20-25 homer guy who can hit .260 and provide flexibility at first and in right field.” Those of us who had seen GJ’s entire career recognized that he was more likely to be coming off a career year than he was to be at the beginning of a nice little 3-4 year peak. Ask Dodger fans about Loney, and I doubt they’d start talking about a rock solid starter (which is what you should expect to get when you shell out an eight-figure annual salary.

  • I don’t know what to think of Moreland. Haven’t seen much of him. But stats suggest he’s slightly better than league average but also sprays to all fields, which is a positive as he might benefit from a bigger OF. But also seems that he can’t hit an inside pitch and is well above league average in whiffing at off-speed stuff. So sounds like GI Jones but with the ability to go opposite field.

  • I’d like to submit an alternative strategy here:

    I have little interest in tying up over 10% of our payroll in such a mediocre player. I liked the idea of adding Loney but that was before I read what he was asking for.

    At this point I’d keep working the phones but I’d be fully prepared to go into the season standing pat. No, that wouldn’t be ideal, but how long will it be until teams have fallen out of it and players become available in trades? Hell, we can probably go get Morneau again once the Rockies suck if that’s what we want to do (or better yet Michael Cuddyer).

    Loney MIGHT be worth 2 wins over replacement in 2014. But how many wins is he worth above the average deadline acquisition? Probably zero. So we sacrifice ONE win to wait until June or July. Meanwhile we’d save millions in 2014 and keep our options open moving forward. And- and this is often overlooked- by waiting until the trade deadline we give ourselves a chance to see how the player is performing IN 2014 before making a commitment. Marlon Byrd is a great example of a player that you wouldn’t necessarily want to open the year with, but whom can be very helpful WHEN HE’S HAVING A GOOD SEASON. Waiting til the deadline ensures that you don’t she’ll out money for a guy having a howler (which all the players we are discussing are capable of).

    What do we do in the meantime? Whatever we have to. Give Walker time at first and play a Walker-Mercer-Barmes-Alvarez infield on occasion against righties. Give Lambo reps and hope he can offer a hit month or two. Give Gaby more starts than we would’ve liked. Whatever.

    But I’m not giving James Freakin Loney $30,000,000! Lambo could accidentally have a ten homer May and be worth two WAR. No way am I committing such a substantial sum to a player with no prayer of outperforming his contract.

  • OK all, what am I missing? I was looking at Jeff Baker’s stats, and they looked pretty darn good, but I haven’t heard his name mentioned at all by anyone. Please enlighten me πŸ™‚

    • Baker’s had 3 decent seasons in a part-time role out of 9 seasons in MLB. I suggest you take another closer look at those stats.

      But it does bring up the question as to whether there are other options – and I can think of an easy one off the top of my head: Mike Carp. If they hadn’t just dumped $5 mill on Volquez I could see Neal working with his buddy Cherington on assuming Dempster’s contract if Ben threw in Carp while providing a C prospect and parts in return. That would be $14 mill for two key needs, provide a better starting option than Volquez (although not as good as AJ) and give the Bucs a pretty darned good LH platoon partner at 1b for basically MLB minimum this year.

      Then again, I’m still angry that Rizzo bilked Detroit out of Fister and Neal didn’t. So maybe Neal just isn’t as smart as I’d like him to be.

      • Wile we’re at it I think we should all take a closer look at Loney’s stats too……including the -0.4 WAR, .629 OPS we posted in 2012.

        The guy is absolutely capable of being a dog for whoever signs him. Keep him for three years and it becomes a near-lock IMO that he murders you in at least one of those seasons.

        Not suggesting that Jeff Baker’s ratio of good seasons to bad is better than Loney’s, but if you’re going to settle for mediocrity at least get it from the bargain bin.

    • He’s the wrong side of the platoon split – hits lefties, doesn’t hit righties. He would duplicate what Gaby gives you and still leave a hole against RHP.

  • How Much Bargaining Power Does James Loney Have?
    A: He doesn’t hit for power, but he does play the averages and he gets on base a lot.

  • Bucco in St. Louis
    December 12, 2013 1:22 pm

    For what it’s worth……

    Steamer and Oliver projections both have Loney and Justin Morneau valued at roughly 1.0 WAR for next year. Justin received a two year deal from the Rockies for $13 million. Since Loney is widely considered the better player at this time, i can see Loney and his agent thinking that he should definitely get a three year deal that averages more than the Morneau contract. The reason he isn’t signed is due to the fact that teams rather not lock themselves into an at-best average first baseman for the next 3 years.

    If you are the Pirates, there is a possibility that J. Bell breaks out in the minors over the next two years. At that point, I would expect we are probably set in the outfield. So where would Bell’s position be in 2016? My guess is first base. Maybe Bell doesnt work out, but other players may become available, via trade, over the next two seasons that could present a big upgrade for 1st base.

    You don’t want Loney as the Pirates 1st baseman in 2016. If that happens, than the Pirates FO was unable to improve the offense at a position where high offensive production is expected.

    • So true… I can get onboard with Loney, but not for 3 years.

    • I’m not so sure Loney is better than Morneau. We’ve seen players in their mid-thirties bring back their glory days for a summer or two several times. Think Paul Konerko for a recent example. Morneau is far more likely to find his health one of these seasons and hit .300 with 25 homers than Loney is to ever discover that level of production inside himself.

  • Throw in Smoak, and how would you rank the 4 available 1B for a multi-year commitment, knowing what they will be owed:

    Loney; Entering age 30, 3700 career AB. Best guess 3/$21-$24. Some year-to-year performance risk, but over the long haul he is what he is, a 1.5-2 WAR player. Negligible chance Loney will break out and become a 3+ WAR player. Won’t cost a player in trade.

    Davis: Entering age 27, 1500 career AB. MLBTR projected $3.5 in 2014. Using $6M/WAR, 40-60-80 rule and assuming Davis doesn’t break out, his 2015-2016 seasons would be worth ~$5.5 and ~$7M, so shot in the dark guess is 3/$16. More upside than Loney. Will cost a young controllable pitcher. Mets asked for Tyler Thornburg, but will likely have to settle for less.

    Smoak: Entering age 27, 1700 career AB. MLBTR projected $2.8 in 2014. Using same formula as above but assuming Smoak is a 1.2 WAR player he would get around $4.5 and $5.7M, best guess assuming no breakout is 3/$13M. More upside than Loney. Don’t know what Seattle would want in return, but it’s safe to say they don’t need major-league-ready 2B or 1B/DH. When in doubt, always assume it’s pitching.

    Moreland: Entering age 28, 1400 career AB. MLBTR projected $2.7 in 2014, so he’s on the Smoak path if he continues performing at career levels. No word on what Texas is looking for, but there was a rumored Moreland for Matt Joyce swap, so it could be an OF. They’re also in on Jamey Carroll, so maybe a super-U.

    My top 4 would be Moreland, Loney, Smoak, Davis.

  • The old Pirates give Loney 3 yrs – the Pat Meares, Derek Bell, Joe Randa Pirates. Those days are over – today’s Pirates, the smart Pirates, offer Loney 1 yr, $3MM or at the most, 2 yrs, $6MM, and if he doesn’t like it, he can go pound sand.

    Today’s Pirates know you can’t just spend money for the sake of spending it – you have to spend it wisely to win. Making a major investment in a guy whose record over the last 6 years consists of long stretches of ineptitude is the opposite of spending money wisely.

    • I’d say more like 1/7, 2/12, but I agree with your premise. They would’ve so desperate to do “something” that they would’ve bid against themselves until they’d given him WAY too much.

  • Is Overbay still out there?
    Don’t know if I am serious or not.

  • FWIW, I was watching MLB Network yesterday morning and the hosts asked their guest (can’t remember if it was a Ray or Dodger, but wasn’t Friedman nor Coletti) who the cheapest guy on the team was, and they said without hesitation, Loney – who used to leave games with bags of food.

    So maybe he really does need that extra million or two.

  • Am I the only one that is hoping for a trade for Justin Smoak? In 308 at bats against lefties last year he hit 18 homers with an .838 OPS and his OBP overall was 100 points higher than his batting average.

    • Correction: 308 at bats against righties.

    • And in 2012 he was terrible from both sides and even had better stats as a RH batter. His career splits are fairly even. If you want to pick a year, in 2012 Ike Davis was much better vs. RHP. And in July/Aug last year he was very good – and actually walked more than he K’d (38/35). His August was absurd, so maybe something finally clicked or he just went on a Pedro-like tear – but if he’s cheap, it could be worth finding out.

      Btw, does anyone read anything in to the fact that Decker is going to be signing at both days of PirateFest while Snider isn’t listed? Then again, only 13 current players are scheduled for autographs – way less than last year.

    • what would Seattle want is the true question.

      And, up until last year, Smoak had sucked.

    • I feel the same exact way. I think smoak would be an excellent addition to the team. I commented on another post about trading for him.

      • Dude’s got a good eye and walks a good bit. He’s got good pedigree and seems to be putting it together.

    • I agree with Smoak. 20 hr’s in limited ab’s in a pitcher’s park. But mostly because he’s young and I believe he’s ready to break out.

      We will see.

  • I think Loney is the best fit for the team. Don’t even mind three years. Patience Neal. 3 X 7$7.5 or $8 million is OK, it’ll get there.

  • Could also be that the Pirates landed a top 5 catcher for 8mil and they might think that an average to slightly above average 1st basemen should not cost them more than 8mil. My guess is they are hung up on philosophy. Loney is the best bet for them right now or they might have to stay in house.

  • What a huge turnaround in the market. Going from a buyers market to a players market. Still no reason to overpay Loney. In my book, if we can’t sign Loney, we just stay inside. Would be a shame not to get Loney for 3 years. We have NOBODY in the minors that excites me in the near future. Gaby isn’t that much worse against RH pitching than Ike was last year. I was even looking at Justin Smoak’s numbers and again think the difference in the numbers says stay with Gaby.

    • The Lambo experiment I don’t understand. He seems oddly enough to hit LH pitching better than RH. We need a platoon that aids Gaby’s deficiencies against RH pitching or as I said just go with Gaby everyday. No worse than what Pedro’s splits are on the other side of the diamond.

      • If you are referring to the splits on MiLB, for his current team, that is an incredibly small sample size. Lambo actually hits RHP much better than he hits LHP. He actually screams RHP platoon, as he is typically awful vs. LHP. Just a stat fluke from a small sample size.

  • I seems that these teams are hassling over minor dollars, I read somewhere that the Brewers were around 8mil and could not get him. If the Pirates were willing to go 8mil then what is 3mil more over three years to get him. It looks a lot like the Cano situation to me, if they really want him they should be able to get him without quibbling over 2-3mil, Huntington has already said this is not a time situation. The only thing I can think of is that they must have at least some other alternatives that are equal and cheaper than what Loney wants, if they are playing the waiting game then this one they could lose, like the Cano deal. They were willing to go more for Cano and should not have played around and did it.

    • The only $8 M deal I’ve seen with the Brewers is that they offered Corey Hart $4 M guaranteed plus $4 M in incentives.

      Also, I think one hang-up is that they don’t want to go three years, which is what Loney wants.

      • Moreland and Smoak are about the same on paper and are really not much better than Garrett Jones. Ike Davis is too risky. I actually like Loney because he has a glove like Morneau, which is important on a club like ours that does not win by large margins. I would also promote the idea of trading for Encarnacion. Maybe we could sell high on Lariano. And I never thought i would say this, but i am glad we signed Barmes.

        • WM: Have not looked at Smoak, but Moreland is a much better defensive 1B than Jones, and played college at Miss St, so I know he has to be a ballplayer. I favored signing Morneau, but such is life. That GM in Seattle is out of his mind giving up a future Closer in Carter Capps for LoMo. First year up as a 22 year old throwing an average of 95.5 mph! He did not locate well and got hit around, but his numbers indicated a lot better future than his ERA would lead anyone to believe. Hope the Pirates keep him on the radar. Guys like Moreland and Smoak should be available for a song because they have already been replaced by others, but before I give anything substantial, I wait until ST or later and go in with the thought that Gaby Sanchez is our only 1B. Move Neil over there to give Gaby a break.