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(via Tampa Bay Rays Communications) - The Tampa Bay Rays have signed first baseman James Loney to a three-year, $21 million contract.  It is the largest free agent contract awarded by the Rays under the current ownership led by Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg.  Loney will also make a donation to the Rays Baseball Foundation.

In 2013, his first season with the Rays, Loney led the club with a .299 (164-for-549) batting average and totaled 13 home runs, 75 RBI and 33 doubles.  The 29-year-old was one of three finalists for the American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award at first base, along with winner Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals and Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.  His 1,277.2 innings were the most ever by a Rays first baseman.  Loney’s .299 batting average ranked 13th in the AL—second among AL first basemen behind Hosmer (.302)—and was his highest mark since 2007 when he hit .331.

Loney played in 158 games in 2013 and has averaged 157 games per season over the last six years (2008-13).  His 940 total games during that span are tied for sixth most among all major league players, matched by only Prince Fielder (968), Robinson Cano (960), Adrian Gonzalez (957), Hunter Pence (948), Ichiro Suzuki (943) and Miguel Cabrera (940).

An eight-year major league veteran, Loney reached the postseason for the fourth time in 2013.  His career .354 postseason batting average leads all active players and ranks eighth in major league postseason history (min. 75 plate appearances).  In addition, he has compiled a .427 on-base percentage (third among active players), a .532 slugging percentage, three home runs, 16 RBI and five doubles in his postseason career.

The left-handed batter is a career .308 hitter with runners in scoring position.  He led the majors in 2013 with a .351 batting average on the road, setting a Rays record and the highest mark of any AL player since 2006.

The return of Loney means the Rays can bring back their starting infield from 2013, when all four infielders (Loney, second baseman Ben Zobrist, third baseman Evan Longoria and shortstop Yunel Escobar) were each nominated for a Rawlings AL Gold Glove Award.

 

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