Rays make Loney deal official
Update 5:20 p.m. Loney said that once the season ended, he knew he wanted to come back to Tampa Bay.
But as a free agent for the second time, he wanted to check out his options. Loney said the Brewers, Pirates and Astros were interested, like Tampa Bay, but the money was "about the same," and he chose to come back to where he was the most happy.
“After I looked over everything at the time, I thought this was going to be the best option and this is where I want to be," Loney said.
Loney said he felt really comfortable in his one season in Tampa Bay, citing the atmosphere manager Joe Maddon created, allowing him to be an "all-around hitter." He appreciated both Maddon and executive VP Andrew Friedman touching base with him early in the offseason, as well as some recruiting pitches, via text, by fellow infielders Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.
“We kind of texted back about winning and having the same guys back and how good that would be,” Loney said.
Developing: The Rays officially announced Friday their new three-year, $21 million deal with first baseman James Loney.
The two sides reached an agreement Dec. 13, but needed some time for Loney to undergo a physical and to finalize contract details; Loney will receive a $5 million signing bonus, with salaries of $1 million (2014), $7 million (2015) and $8 million (2016).
It is the largest free agent commitment the Rays have made since Stuart Sternberg's ownership group took over in 2005.
In Loney, 29, the Rays got their first choice at first base, bringing back a player that blossomed last season, his first in Tampa Bay. Loney hit .299 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs while being a Gold Glove finalist in 2013.
"So pumped to have Loney back with us," Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist said last month. "He's a pro in every way and makes us better as a team, both offensively and defensively."
Loney got a sizable raise - and some security - after playing for $2 million last year, coming off a rough 2012 when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox. While the Rays had let Loney head into free agency, they appeared to have him atop their list throughout the offseason while exploring other free agent and trade options.
When reports surfaced Loney was seeking $27 million to $30 million, it seemed like he might be too expensive for Tampa Bay, especially with him garnering interest from the Pirates and Brewers. But in re-signing Loney, the Rays get some rare stability at a position that's typically been a year-to-year carousel, while also keeping their Gold Glove infield intact (third baseman Evan Longoria, shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Ben Zobrist were all also Gold Glove finalists).