The Tampa Bay Rays are close to a deal for free-agent first baseman James Loney, but that is not stopping them from searching elsewhere for an upgrade at first base while in Nashville. The club is reportedly in trade talks with the Washington Nationals to acquire first baseman/outfielder Mike Morse and second baseman Danny Espinosa in exchange for starting pitching, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN:
James Loney and Rays close to one-year deal....Loney would replace Carlos Pena at 1B...also talking to Nats on starter for Morse & Espinosa— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 3, 2012
Tampa Bay could end up going after both Loney and Morse, with the latter taking over in left field and Desmond Jennings moving to center to fill the void left by B.J. Upton. That kind of move could make things much easier for the Rays, who are unlikely to dole out the big contract required to pick up any of the remaining center fielders left on the open market.
We learned yesterday that the Nats are on the lookout for top-tier starting pitching, and the Rays' staff of certainly fits the bill. Washington has a bit of a surplus on the infield and the outfield, so moving Morse and Espinosa could allow for Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore to receive significantly more playing time at second and first, respectively.
Morse, 30, is owed $6.75 million next season then will be eligible for free agency. Espinosa, 25, is still in his pre-arb years and will be under team control until 2017.