Detroit — It’s a name you’ll recognize, but there’s a very good chance you’ll never see him in a Detroit uniform.
The Tigers on Wednesday announced the signing of veteran James Loney to a minor-league contract. He will report to extended spring training in Lakeland, Florida. After that, he’s likely to be used in Triple A Toledo, as organizational depth.
Loney, an 11-year major-leaguer, only plays first base and designated hitter these days, and the Tigers, barring injuries of course, are plenty set at both spots, with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Loney has played mostly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but also for the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and, most recently, the New York Mets.
He’s a career .284/.336/.410 hitter, with 108 career home runs. Last year, he hit .265/.307/.397 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 100 games with the Mets.
A former first-round pick by the Dodgers, there’s still some pop in the left-handed bat of the 32-year-old, but it’d be a tough sell to picture him with the Tigers. Given his lack of defensive flexibility, he wouldn’t even be a fit as a bat off the bench.
Of the Tigers’ four bench pieces, three are versatile in the field, and the fourth is backup catcher Alex Avila.
Loney hasn’t played anything but first base since he saw some action in right field in 2006 and 2007, his first two years in the big leagues.
There was no immediate word if Loney has any opt-out date in his minor-league contract, allowing him to leave the organization if he’s not on the major-league roster by a certain date, or if another team desires him for its major-league roster.
The Tigers have just one first baseman on the roster at Toledo, 30-year-old journeyman Efren Navarro.