Rays spending big -- for them

Rays spending big -- for them
January 6, 2014, 9:30 am
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With the re-signing of first baseman James Loney, the thrifty Tampa Bay Rays have kept their starting infield together for 2014. At three years for $21 million, Loney’s contract doesn’t seem like a huge amount in baseball these days, but it’s part of a commitment to a higher payroll for a team that feels it has the means to contend and wants to do so — even at too high a price tag.

Depending on what happens with on-the-block ace David Price, the Rays appear headed over their franchise high of $72 million in payroll, club vice president Andrew Friedman confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times.

"I think it's an unaffordable figure for our franchise," Friedman said. "But I think it's something that [owner Stuart Sternberg] has been very steadfast in doing everything he can and putting our best foot forward to win as many games as we possibly can as we continue to build a foundation and fan base in this area. But it's certainly not a sustainable number in terms of where we are revenue-wise.

“But we felt like we had a really good chance to be great next year. That's why we're doing what we're doing."

Last year, the Rays had a payroll of $64.6 million, which was No. 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams, according to the commissioner’s office. The Orioles were 14th, at $103.3 million. The rest of the American League East: Yankees, $237.0 million, No. 1; Red Sox, $176.5 million No. 3; and Blue Jays, $125.9 million, No. 9.

Loney led Tampa Bay with a .299 batting average, hitting 13 homers and driving in 75 runs. His contract represents the largest free-agent signing under Sternberg’s ownership, which began in 2005. So while it may not seem a big deal in MLB’s overall scheme of things, it is for the Rays.