The Tampa Bay Rays made a pair of trades on Friday, dealing away right-handed reliever Andrew Kittredge to the St. Louis Cardinals while acquiring outfielder Luke Raley from the Seattle Mariners.
Rays Send Kittredge to Cardinals
The Rays shipped Kittredge to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Richie Palacios.
Kittredge, a 31-year-old righty, has been one of Tampa Bay’s top bullpen arms over the past few seasons. He made his first All-Star team in 2021 and owns a career 3.30 ERA across parts of six big league seasons.
Last year, Kittredge posted a 3.15 ERA with three saves over 46 2⁄3 innings before his season was cut short in August by a back injury that required spinal fusion surgery.
The Cardinals add another high-leverage arm to their bullpen mix after already signing lefty Andrew Chafin earlier this winter.
Palacios, 26, appeared briefly in the majors each of the past two seasons with Cleveland and had just 58 career MLB plate appearances under his belt. He spent the bulk of 2022 with Triple-A Memphis, hitting .299/.383/.538 with 14 homers across 95 games.
Rays Pick Up Mariners OF Luke Raley
In a separate swap, the Rays acquired left-handed hitting outfielder Luke Raley from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for infield prospect Jose Caballero.
Raley, 27, brings an intriguing power/speed blend and is seemingly a strong fit for Tampa’s offensive philosophy. Although he’s struggled at the plate in limited MLB opportunities to date, he erupted for a .306/.402/.625 line with 34 doubles and 21 homers in 95 Triple-A games last season.
The former seventh-round pick can play all three outfield spots and has posted high walk rates throughout his minor league career. He could compete for a roster spot this spring as a left-handed bench bat.
Caballero, 24, is coming off a breakout 2022 season across High-A and Double-A in which he slashed .279/.364/.497 with 19 homers and 32 steals over 118 games. Although it was a major step forward after several seasons of middling results, the Dodgers prospect still likely profiles best as a utility type rather than an everyday player.
Background and Reaction
The trades come amid an offseason of change and uncertainty for the Rays. Tampa remains unlikely to commit significant resources to retaining ace left-hander Tyler Glasnow while the team could also lose All-Star outfielder Manuel Margot and closer Pete Fairbanks in free agency.
|2022 Rays Bullpen Stats
Losing Kittredge, who owns a career 29.2% strikeout rate and 7.9% walk rate, creates another hole for the bullpen to fill.
The Rays bullpen finished sixth in FanGraphs WAR last season and ranked in the top 10 by most measures, but the unit could look quite different by Opening Day if roster turnover continues.
Early reaction to the deals has been mixed among Rays fans and analysts:
Rays baseball writer Adam Berry: “The #Rays lose one of their best relievers in Kittredge — the type of high-leverage arm that would’ve helped their ‘pen. But they pick up an interesting, controllable lefty bat in Raley who fits their mold as a power/speed threat.”
Rays blog DrayBay: “Overall this is the kind of challenge trade the Rays make all the time…the Rays definitely sold low and bought high but that hasn’t stopped them from winning before.”
Rays radio host Dan Le Batard: “Kittredge could have helped this team, so this is a weird sort of white flag from the Rays, who badly needed bullpen help.”
The Cardinals and Mariners, meanwhile, both added controllable role players — Kittredge is under team control through 2025 while Raley is under control through 2026. Seattle GM Justin Hollander has been active on the trade market all winter while St. Louis continues to build out its relief corps.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak on the deal, per The Athletic: “We’re trying to have a complete bullpen from the left and right side at the end of games. [Kittredge] gives us some flexibility where we can pick high-leverage situations.”
What’s Next for the Rays?
It remains to be seen if the Rays will make further win-now moves before Opening Day or take more of a long view after these deals. The trades did help bolster organizational depth in the outfield and infield.
But with spring training fast approaching, Tampa’s roster has more questions than answers after an unusually quiet winter. The Rays still badly need rotation help with Tyler Glasnow expected to miss at least half of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen also now contains even more uncertainty. Fairbanks, JT Chargois, Colin Poche and Jason Adam could all miss the start of next season due to injuries.
While Raley and Palacios offer affordable upside, neither are sure bets to thrive at the MLB level. And the Rays failed to pick up much in the way of established talent.
If the team doesn’t pivot to more aggressive win-now maneuvers — signing Rodon, trading for Gray or Contreras, etc. — they could risk falling further behind the rising Orioles and Blue Jays in an increasingly competitive AL East.
Stay tuned as the Rays look to fill out their roster amid what continues to shape up as an intriguing, unpredictable offseason in Tampa.
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