Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Making the case for James Loney

Say this sentence out loud: James Loney might be a better option at first base for the Colorado Rockies than Justin Morneau.

Think of how crazy that would have sounded a few years ago. Yet here we are, with both men as free agents, and you could very well make the case that the Rockies should be more interested in Loney than Morneau.

On the offensive side of things Loney’s productions was comparable to Morneau’s: in 158 games he batted .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI. Unlike Morneau, his production remained relatively steady against left-handed pitching: while he hit for less power (three of his home runs vs 10 against right-handed pitching), he batted an identical .299 against them. The fact that he will at least continue to hit for average and get on base against lefty’s might give him a leg up on Morneau; Loney is a true everyday player.

He is also a superior defender. While Morneau was also solid in the field, Loney was great in more action. He committed only seven errors for a .995 fielding percentage. While advanced metrics apply a bit differently to first baseman, he was solid there too with a 6.1 UZR and a 7.2 UZR/150. He might be the closest the Rockies can get to matching Todd Helton‘s glove at first and he moves around better (to state the obvious, with no disrespect to the Toddfather intended).

Here’s a final thought: the Rockies could stand to learn a few things (or a lot of things) from the Tampa Bay Rays, right? Perhaps no franchise in all of baseball does a better job of finding productive players on the cheap and maximizing their potential. They identified something in Loney’s game and made him their everyday first baseman in 2013. If the Rays saw something in him, shouldn’t the Rockies take note of that? Would signing Loney instead of Morneau represent a rare instance in which the Rockies thought more like the Rays?

If that’s the case, it might not take much more for you to talk me into Loney as the ideal free agent first baseman for the Rockies.

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