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James Loney

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James Anthony Loney

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James Loney was a pitcher and first baseman in high school and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Chris Smith and made his pro debut that summer, hitting .317 with 22 doubles for the Great Falls Dodgers of the Pioneer League. The next season, he advanced to A, where he hit .276 with 7 homers. In 2004, he struggled at AA, hitting just .238. He spent the following year in AA again, but in 2006, Loney made his big league debut with the Dodgers. He was rated the #12 prospect in the Pacific Coast League by Baseball America.

Loney made his mark by slugging .559 as a rookie in 2006 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Loney's rookie season was highlighted by a 9 RBI day (September 28) at Colorado. He wound up the year batting .284 with 4 HRs and 18 RBIs in 102 plate appearances. However, he was sent to the minors at the end of spring training in 2007 after being told there wasn't a spot for him on the team. Nomar Garciaparra was playing first while Andre Ethier and Luis Gonzalez were set for the outfield corners. Loney was sent to Las Vegas to play, and he suggested that perhaps he could be traded. After some time in Las Vegas, he was brought back to the Dodgers, and in 2007, he hit .331 with a .538 slugging percentage in 96 games.

On August 25, 2012, Loney was the only established major leaguer which the Dodgers sent to the Boston Red Sox in one of the biggest blockbuster trades in baseball history. The Dodgers took on $260 million in future salary that day when they acquired 1B Adrian Gonzalez, P Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford and IF Nick Punto. Loney was having a very poor season for the Dodgers, hitting a mere .254 with 4 homers and 33 RBI in 114 games, and the four prospects who joined him on the way to Boston - Ps Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, IF Ivan DeJesus and OF/1B Jerry Sands - were the key to the deal. Loney had to take over for Gonzalez as the Sox's first baseman, with the understanding that there was almost no chance that his services would be retained by Boston beyond the end of the current season. Indeed, he hit only .230 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 30 games with the Red Sox, who made no effort to re-sign him after the season. On December 3rd, the day Boston signed Mike Napoli to be its new first baseman, Loney inked a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for $2 million, with no guarantee of receiving regular playing time in 2013.

Loney found his stroke back with the Rays in 2013. After 42 games on May 18th, he was hitting .359 and had 19 runs scored and 21 RBI, even though he had hit only three homers. His batting average was second in the American League to Miguel Cabrera. He could not keep up his torrid pace all season, but still had a very solid year at the plate combined with his usual stellar defense at first base. On September 23rd, with the Rays working to clinch the first wild card spot in the AL, he had one of the team's most important hits all year, a walk-off 9th-inning pinch-hit homer off the Baltimore Orioles' Tommy Hunter that gave the Rays a key 5-4 win. He finished the season at .299/,348/.430, posting a 118 OPS+; he had 33 doubles and 13 homers. In the postseason, he went 1 for 4 and scored a run as the Rays defeated the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Game, then was 5 for 12 (.417) with a pair of doubles when the Rays lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS. Having found a good home in Tampa Bay, he re-signed with the team after the season, his good year resulting in a three-year deal for $21 million announced on December 13th and formally completed on January 3, 2014.

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