Chicago Cubs: Could James Loney Be Theo Epstein's Choice at First Base?
With the Chicago Cubs still in search of filling their hole at first base, perhaps their guy could be James Loney of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Following the massive $160 million, eight-year extension Los Angeles just gave Matt Kemp, it is hard to imagine that the Dodgers are going to be able to put up enough money to be able to afford Loney down the line as well.
Loney is arbitration eligible this season, and he may be asking for some big money considering what the Dodgers just gave Kemp. While Loney doesn't deserve nearly as much as Kemp, it may be unlikely that the Dodgers will see him worth the costs at this point in time.
In 2011, Loney batted .288 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. His numbers have been decreasing, but at only 27 years old, he may be a great option for a Cubs team in a rebuilding process. He doesn't possess the power that a player like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols presents, but he does have a left-handed bat and much more consistency compared to last year's first baseman Carlos Pena.
With Loney set to make $4.88 million in 2012 before arbitration, he is definitely an affordable option for the Cubs. While it may seem that that Dodgers would like to keep Loney around, after the Kemp contract, they may be changing their minds. It is unlikely that they will just let Loney walk, though.
Loney did play relatively well following the All-Star break, batting .320. The Cubs would likely have to pony up a few prospects, and possibly Geovany Soto would be enough to make a deal happen. The Dodgers lost catcher Russell Martin a season ago, and they could really benefit by adding a quality bat and defensive catcher such as Soto.
If the Cubs were to get Loney, he could potentially fill the void in the outfield as well. He would be a fine option at first base in the meantime, but he does give the Cubs options because they will need to add a power hitter at either first or in the outfield if they do not fill that hole at third base.
If they do end up letting him walk, the Cubs should look to jump on that option as he will come much cheaper compared to Pujols or Fielder. While Fielder is still the best option for the Cubs, if Epstein holds true to his word, he may just not be in the Cubs' set budget.
It will be interesting to see what direction the Dodgers decide to take with Loney in the coming weeks, considering that the whole Kemp deal could be a sign of major spending or future saving. If Loney's name does pop up though on the trade wire, the Cubs may be best to take a shot if they pass on all other big options.
Jeff Chase is from Chicago and is an undergrad at Arizona State University. He currently is interning with B/R and is in process of becoming a Featured Columnist for Arizona State football.
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