Before Cody Bellinger burst on the scene, James Loney was the last Los Angeles Dodgers first base prospect to generate excitement.
Loney, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in the 2002 Draft, made his MLB debut in 2006. He finished sixth in 2007 National League Rookie of the Year voting despite only appearing in 96 games that season. He garnered votes behind an excellent .331/.381./.538 slash line when healthy.
Loney remained with the Dodgers until 2012, when he was sent to the Boston Red Sox in the massive three-team trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.
Loney signed with the Tampa Bay Rays that following offseason, enjoying some mild success there, but was cut by the Rays at the end of Spring Training in 2016. After that, he would bounce around several franchises, including the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves — only seeing big-league playing time with the Mets.
Loney spent 2017 in the Korean KBO league and was most recently playing on the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. He announced his retirement from baseball on May 10.
In his first public interview since that decision, Loney talked about his post-playing plans, which include an appearance in the Dodgers’ annual Alumni Game and potentially joining the front office, via AM 570 L.A. Sports:
“I’ll be down there for the Alumni Game (on) June 1. I just got invited to that, so that should be fun, being at the stadium again and around some of the guys. But as far as the future goes, I’ve talked to the Dodgers a couple times as far as working in player development. I think we’re going to get something done. At least kind of have the opportunity to see behind the scenes and see how the operations go, see if I enjoy it. We’ve had some communications there and we’ll see where it goes.”
Loney has familiarity with current Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who signed him twice in Tampa Bay. And of course, Loney is familiar with the Dodgers, including one specific member of the current roster.
By 2008, Loney had entrenched himself as the Dodgers’ starting first baseman and a key part of the young core that included Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin. Ironically enough, Loney is the only one of those four to not eventually play under current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Ethier spent his entire career with the Dodgers before retiring in 2018, while Kemp returned to the team via trade that same year. Martin saw his return to the Dodgers thanks to a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays last January.