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Should the Astros Consider Tampa Bay’s James Loney?

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It’s no secret that the Houston Astros are still shopping around to add another player before Friday’s trade deadline. General Manager Jeff Luhnow said on Saturday, “I think there’s a good chance that we’ll be involved in one other deal…” according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. After Luhnow strengthened the rotation by trading for SP Scott Kazmir, it seems logical that the Astros would now focus on shoring up their offense.

Which position should the team try to upgrade? First base has obviously been a black hole with Chris Carter and Jon Singleton failing to provide consistent offense. Let’s be honest: Chris Carter’s bat is not coming to life, as I was hoping six weeks ago. It’s also clear that Jon Singleton is not Luhnow’s guy, or else he’d be getting more time to swing the stick and less time in the platoon. Truly it seems that Singleton’s time has passed as he didn’t take over, nor was he really given the chance when Chris Carter was out with a twisted ankle.

Even with Marwin Gonzalez, who has been superb as a utility player at shortstop, third base, and first base, I think he’s best left as a utility player, not an everyday guy. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that first base is the position most in need of a lifeline.

Carter’s and Singleton’s swing-for-the-fences approach, which results in high strikeouts and low connections, are not what the Astros should look for. Besides, with Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, and Colby Rasmus, the Astros have enough guys who can carry Crush City in the homer dept. They tend to strikeout at a high rate, too, and we don’t need anymore of that.

What they really need is someone besides Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who can hit on a more consistent basis. One guy who may be available is the Tampa Bay Rays’ first baseman James Loney. The Rays are sitting in fourth in the AL East, 7.5 games back of the Yankees, and 3.5 games back of the last Wild Card spot. Perhaps they’d be willing to sell if by Friday they drop a few more games back.

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Loney, a 31-year-old Houston area native, has had a solid career over ten seasons, posting a .284/.338/.412 career line with 241 doubles and 98 home runs. A home run hitter he is not, but he does get on base and does not strike out a ton (career high 95 whiffs in 2010; has been over 80 in only two other seasons). This year for Tampa he’s having a down year, and he’s had an injury, playing in only 49 games while posting a .254/.309/.339 line.

Sure, the stats don’t knock your socks off, but it suggests that maybe a change of scenery may work for him. Plus, since he’s struggling, the Astros probably wouldn’t have to give up a whole lot to get him. And, what’s more, he’s under contract through the end of 2016, where he’d make $9.67M next year. With that additional year, he could be a stop-gap solution until A.J. Reed is ready.

He also has playoff experience, going with the Dodgers to the NLDS in 2006 and the NLCS in 2008 and 2009, and the Rays to the ALDS in 2013. The Astros have only four hitters on the current roster with playoff experience- Colby Rasmus, Hank Conger, Evan Gattis, and Jed Lowrie. Another seasoned veteran for the stretch run couldn’t hurt.

What would Houston have to give up for him? I don’t think it would be much, perhaps sending off Singleton and his cheap contract (which the Rays might like), and possibly someone like Brett Oberholtzer, who no longer has a spot in the rotation. Both are projects, and perhaps JL could sell Singleton on his potential upside. Truthfully, I don’t know what it would take, this is just throwing something at the wall.

But I do know this: James Loney would be an upgrade over the current platoon at the first sack. Shouldn’t Jeff Luhnow at least put out a feeler?

Next: Craig Biggio Gets Houston Into the Hall

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