It is well documented that the Rays payroll is one of the lowest in the league. Due to that, Loney’s $8 million and Jennings’ $3.1 million (projected) contracts limit the front office’s ability to upgrade other parts of the roster. Sixteen players will be owed an estimated $63 million, leaving no more than $10 million available for the remaining rosters spots. That’s assuming Rays’ ownership holds to a total payroll around the $72-73 million in 2014 and 2015.
Freeing up an additional $11 million will provide much needed payroll flexibility. However, is there any team willing to take a chance on Loney? After hitting .280/.322/.357 with only four home runs and 32 RBIs last season, the Rays will have to ask for a fringe prospect or be willing to absorb a portion of the contract. Potential trade partners could be the Houston Astros, Loney’s hometown, or the Baltimore Orioles as a plan B in case Chris Davis departs.
With Jennings, a trade partner is more likely as his contract is affordable and he will not be a free agent until 2018. What is unknown is what the Rays would take in return. They are already set in the outfield. Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. will man center and right for the foreseeable future. Brandon Guyer and Mikie Mahtook can provide similar production to Jennings at a much lower cost. As major free-agent outfielders start to sign, an opportunity may present itself.