The Tampa Bay Rays have released first baseman James Loney just ahead of their regular-season opener on Sunday, according to Bill Chastain of

The team had made the decision earlier this week, per Chastain, but waited to make the move as it was seeking to trade Loney before Sunday’s deadline to have its 25-man roster finalized.   

The Rays still owe Loney $8 million in base salary in 2016, per Spotrac, as he had one season left on a three-year, $21 million deal he signed in January 2014. 

Loney, 31, had been the Rays’ starter at first base the past three seasons, but his future seemed in doubt when the team added Logan Morrison, Steve Pearce and Corey Dickerson this offseason. 

“It was a difficult decision, but especially for a guy, he did a lot of good things for this organization over the last couple of years,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said, per Chastain. “He was a leader for us. He had some good seasons. But sometimes, we all know in this business, there’s decisions that need to be made.”

This spring, Loney hit .265/.286/.353 with zero home runs and one RBI in 34 at-bats over 12 games. He played in at least 155 games in each of his first two seasons in Tampa Bay but suffered injuries early in the 2015 season.

Loney wishes he could stick around as the Rays continue their rebuilding process but thanked the team for the opportunity, per Chastain:

The team was great. Obviously, I wish them the best. The guys were great. Loved my time here. Loved the organization, how they gave me a chance after 2012. But at the end of the day, you want to play in the big leagues and you want to win, obviously. So we’ll see how that goes.

 … I would have liked to win with these guys. But at the end of the day, it is a business. So those aren’t my decisions. I had nothing to do with that.

Loney should find another job, particularly early in the season as rosters continue to shuffle, but he may have to settle for a minor league contract. That might not be a huge issue for him, though, as he’s earned nearly $27 million over the course of his 10-year career, per

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