James Loney batted .249/.293/.336 with six home runs and 41 RBI in 144 games last season between the Dodgers and Red Sox and had to settle for a one-year, $2 million contract from the Rays this winter as a free agent.
Unexpectedly, that deal is suddenly looking like a steal.
Loney went 2-for-4 with a home run in the Rays’ 4-2 victory over the Padres on Sunday afternoon and is now hitting .376/.429/.560 with three big flies and 20 RBI in just 37 games played this season. He has entrenched himself as Tampa Bay’s starting first baseman and is drawing rave reviews from Rays manager Joe Maddon for his all-around play. But here comes the bad news.
Loney, 29, is a .280/.337/.405 hitter since the start of the 2008 season and has averaged just 10 home runs per year in that span. There are of course exceptions to the rule, but for the most part baseball players will eventually regress to the mean. Which is to say that a prolonged slump is probably on the horizon. Sell high now if that is somehow an option.
Cards Lose Westbrook, Turn To Gast
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak announced Sunday morning that right-hander Jake Westbrook was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of elbow inflammation and that young lefty John Gast would be called up Tuesday from Triple-A Memphis to start against the Mets in Westbrook’s place. It will be Gast’s major league debut.
Westbrook is only expected to miss two turns in the Cardinals’ rotation, but Gast is worth picking up anyway in most standard mixed leagues. A sixth-round selection in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of Florida State University, the 24-year-old has registered a superb 1.16 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 35/13 K/BB ratio across 38 2/3 innings this season at the Triple-A level.
If Westbrook’s elbow injury lingers longer than expected and Gast isn’t cutting it in the bigs, St. Louis could turn to 2012 first-rounder Michael Wacha, who boasts a 1.61 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 64/17 K/BB ratio over his first 61 2/3 career minor league innings. The Cardinals seem to have an endless stream of talent, don’t they?
New Riches For Young Rizzo
As first reported Sunday by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have signed young first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a seven-year, $41 million contract extension with two $14.5 million club options. The deal could be worth a total of $73 million and could potentially run through the 2021 season if all of the options are triggered.
That’s a hefty commitment to a guy with a .253/.331/.434 career batting line in the major leagues, but the Cubs have reason to be confident that it will wind up being a team-friendly pact. Rizzo, an excellent defender at first base, is hitting .280/.352/.538 with nine home runs and 28 RBI in 37 games this season. He was a .336/.405/.670 hitter in 163 games at Triple-A. Oh, and he doesn’t turn 24 years old until August.
National League Quick Hits: Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki slugged his eighth home run of the season in the Rockies’ win over the Cardinals on Sunday … Tim Lincecum threw seven scoreless innings Sunday in the Giants’ defeat of the Braves … The Pirates are planning to activate second baseman Neil Walker (hand) from the disabled list on Monday … Gio Gonzalez went seven scoreless innings, striking out six, but the Nationals lost late to the Cubs on Sunday … Brandon McCarthy tossed eight scoreless innings Sunday against the Phillies but a blown save by Heath Bell cost him his first win ... Phillies setup man Mike Adams is day-to-day with back spasms … Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras suffered an ankle injury Sunday with Triple-A Memphis and is considered day-to-day … Didi Gregorius doubled and tripled on Sunday against the Phillies and is now batting .362/.403/.655 in 15 games this season … Chris Capuano allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings and struck out seven as the Dodgers beat the Marlins on Sunday … Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa flirted with a no-hitter Sunday in a victory over the Cardinals … Jason Grilli notched his 15th save of the season Sunday in the Pirates’ defeat of the Mets … Bronson Arroyo threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the Reds’ win over the Brewers on Sunday at Great American Ball Park … The Rockies placed outfielder Michael Cuddyer on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed cervical disc … Matt Garza (lat) is expected to make two more rehab starts before joining the Cubs’ starting rotation.
American League Quick Hits: White Sox ace Chris Sale threw a one-hit shutout against the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball … Tommy Hanson, who lost his step-brother on Friday, has been scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Royals … Yankees closer Mariano Rivera collected his 15th save of the season as the Yankees topped the Royals on Sunday in Kansas City … Jose Bautista slugged two home runs Sunday in the Blue Jays’ rout of the Red Sox … Erick Aybar (ankle) is hoping to return to the Angels’ starting lineup on Monday … The Yankees will start left-hander Vidal Nuno in Game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader against the Indians … Chris Davis tallied his 11th home run of the season in the Orioles’ defeat of the Twins on Sunday … Tigers closer Jose Valverde blew his first save of the season Sunday versus the Indians … Robinson Cano slugged his 10th home run of 2013 in the Yankees’ win over the Royals on Sunday afternoon … The Rangers activated left-hander Martin Perez from the disabled list and optioned him to Double-A Frisco … Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen left Sunday’s game with a right oblique strain and will likely be placed on the 15-day disabled list … Brandon Morrow (neck) expects to make his next scheduled start … The A’s could activate Coco Crisp (hamstring) from the disabled list Wednesday … Desmond Jennings (groin) is aiming to return to the Rays’ starting lineup on Tuesday … The Red Sox placed David Ross on the 7-day concussion disabled list and recalled Ryan Lavarnway … Ryan Madson (elbow) will be activated from the disabled list this week … The Yankees placed Eduardo Nunez on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 6, with a rib cage injury.