NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rays made it official on Thursday as they signed free-agent first baseman James Loney to a one-year deal.
"James is a guy who has been on our radar for years. We feel like there's a real significant upside from his surface line last year," said executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "He's a tremendous defender and a guy who we feel like fits in really well with our club."
Tampa Bay will pay Loney $2 million for the 2013 season, and he could make another $1 million in incentives.
"I really got my best look at him at the end of the season when he was with the Red Sox, and I was really impressed with his at-bats, the quality of the at-bat," manager Joe Maddon said. "[He] saw pitches well, looked over the bat well, great defender. There's a real calmness about his approach to the game."
Loney, 28, is a career .282 hitter, with 73 home runs and 459 RBIs. He had an off year in 2012, hitting .249 with six home runs and 41 RBIs for the Dodgers and Red Sox. Loney made $6.375 million in 2012.
"I know there's probably some chicken left on the bone there yet," Maddon said. "... He's also at that optimal age, like 28 years of age, right in that sweet spot, where we like to get guys, and maybe possibly what you would consider have underachieved to a point. And all of a sudden, they come to us, and this is like the perfect time to get them."
The Rays went to the Winter Meetings seeking a first baseman to replace Carlos Pena after Pena had a disappointing 2012 season. Loney seems to fit the bill. Though he is not much of a power threat, he is a slick fielder and he makes good contact, as evidenced by his 51 strikeouts in 434 at-bats last season.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.