Rays, James Loney agree to one-year deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Here amid rumors they will consider offers for their best starting pitchers, the Tampa Bay Rays late Sunday night agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent first baseman James Loney, Yahoo! Sports has learned.

The budget-conscious Rays will pay Loney $2 million for 2013. He can earn another $1 million in incentive bonuses.

Loney had his worst offensive season in 2012, when he batted .249 with only six home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. He struggled particularly against left-handed pitching.

Loney continues to be adept defensively, however, and in that sense will be an upgrade at first base over Carlos Pena.

This will be considered a minor move for the Rays if they succeed in turning David Price, James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson into the offensive production they need. The Rays are demanding more in return than they received for Matt Garza, traded two winters ago to the Chicago Cubs, according to rival general managers.

Early reports out of the winter meetings suggested the Washington Nationals and Rays could find common ground for a trade, particularly if the Nationals sign Adam LaRoche, making Michael Morse expendable. reported the Nats were considering dealing second baseman Danny Espinosa and Morse to the Rays for a pitcher, though a later report shot that down. Second base and corner outfield are areas of need for the Rays.

Better than half the league seeks starting pitching, including the often aggressive Texas Rangers, so the Rays wouldn't have to go far to find interested parties.

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