According to ESPN's Jim Bowden, the Tampa Bay Rays are nearing a one-year deal with free-agent first baseman James Loney. Bowden also reports that the Rays are engaging in trade talks with the Washington Nationals, seeking to acquire Danny Espinosa and Mike Morse in exchange for a starting pitcher.
The 28-year-old Loney would replace Carlos Pena as Tampa's starting first baseman. During a 2012 campaign spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, Loney hit .243/.293/.336, which was worth -1.7 WARP. Though he is consistently durable, Loney has also seen a consistent drop-off in his offensive numbers since 2009, when he hit .281/.357/.399 in 651 plate appearances for the Dodgers. The Rays will have to search elsewhere to make up for Pena's power, as Loney smacked just six home runs in 465 plate appearances in 2012.
Loney's popless bat might be why the Rays are targeting Morse, as the 30-year-old outfielder/first baseman slugged 18 homers in 430 plate appearances in 2012 and 31 jacks in 575 plate appearances in 2011. The 25-year-old Espinosa has also shown an ability to go deep; he hit 17 home runs in 658 plate appearances in 2012, though he did strike out 189 times.