Los Angeles Dodgers: Could James Loney Be a Viable Trade Chip?

Andrew J. KearneyCorrespondent IIDecember 27, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 01:  James Loney #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on September 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be in good shape up until last season.  In each of the previous two seasons, they had reached the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Then in 2010, the wheels came off and the Dodgers fell apart.  This caused them to trade Manny Ramirez away, eating a large sum of his money.

The Dodgers are still a team with a good source of options.  With the NL West being a wide-open field, the Dodgers can still make some noise in the future.  Their turnaround has to come now, though.  Another poor season won't serve anyone in the Dodger organization well.  

James Loney could be the most trade-worthy Dodger of them all.  He's the perfect trade chip at this point.  For both Loney and the Dodgers, this would be a positive move.  Loney could get a fresh start and the Dodgers could continue to rebuild—without Loney.  

The Dodgers haven't gotten the power production that was expected from Loney yet. While Loney has hit for average in convincing numbers, his power hasn't been on display in Los Angeles.  Also, his average his declined in each of the past four seasons.  

Though Loney is a solid hitter and fielder, the Dodgers could look at other options.  With an increasing annual salary, Loney may not be worth what he's set to make in the future. That being said, 2011 will truly be a huge year for the young first baseman.

If he can show Dodger brass that he can play up to expectations, they will likely pay to keep him around.  Otherwise, they will venture out to other possibilities and take a different route at first. 

Loney isn't set to become a free agent until 2013.  Before this, he's arbitration eligible in 2011 and likely will make somewhere around $3.5 million.  In 2012, that salary will hike to somewhere around $5 million.  By this time he will have made a nice chunk of money that will only continue to increase.  The question then becomes: Do the Dodgers continue to pay him?

With hefty first baseman Prince Fielder wanting a new home, a trade could be possible. Talks of a three-player deal involving Loney, Fielder and fire-thrower Jonathan Broxton have entertained both Milwaukee and LA.  

Though this rumor was immediately shot down, it sort of makes sense.  All three of these players would benefit from a change in scenery.  Fielder has been on the trade block for quite some time now in Milwaukee, for the better part of two seasons.  Loney's name has suddenly surfaced and Broxton has struggled in LA.  You definitely can't rely on Broxton against the Philadelphia Phillies.  

Unless they were to acquire another first basemen in return, it would be hard for LA to part with Loney.  There's no other first baseman in the organization that's MLB-ready, at least no one that can play every day.

The jury is still out on James Loney for now.  The possibilities are endless as this youngster certainly could make for a good trade chip.  At the time, the Dodgers appear ready to stand pat on Loney.  But that could all change in a flash.  For the time being, we will continue watching this situation unfold.