For quite some time now, baseball fans have been itching for some sort of transactions.
Outside of the top names on the free agent and trade markets finding new homes, there’s been little for us to go off of as of late.
On Friday, that finally changed in a big way. What’s funny is that the floodgates opened and three deals went down within around an hour. Suddenly, we went from nothing to complete madness. As most baseball fans know, there’s no better feeling than having your head spin from a flurry of trades.
The first big deal consisted of the Giants sending Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani to Seattle for Robbie Ray. At the same time that one was going down, the Rays quietly made not one but two deals of their own.
Swap With Seattle
Jose Caballero is the newest middle infielder to join the Rays, while outfielder Luke Raley got shipped from Tampa Bay to Seattle.
Caballero, 27, debuted last year for the Mariners and made it into 104 games. In that time, he hit four home runs with 26 RBI and also stole 26 bases. He registered an OPS+ of just 90, but the vast majority of his value comes from his glove.
A look at Caballero’s Baseball Savant page will show you that he ranked in the 83rd percentile in Fielding Run Value, thanks in large part to his 94th percentile OAA. He’s fast and he’s got some incredible defensive chops at both second base and shortstop.
In Raley, the Rays are moving one of the many power hitters they had in their lineup. The 29-year-old hit 19 home runs with a 126 OPS+ in 118 games last season, posting career-highs all across the board. Ultimately, he was the casualty from a significant roster crunch in the Rays’ outfield.
Saying Goodbye to a Longtime Reliever
In a second swap, the Rays acquired utilityman Richie Palacios from the Cardinals. Heading the other way is long-time Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge.
In Palacios, the Rays land add yet another player to their roster who comes with positional versatility. Being flexible in today’s game is essential, and he fits that bill perfectly.
The 26-year-old played 32 games for the Cardinals last year, hitting six doubles and six home runs while driving in 16. His 120 OPS+ in that time is no slouch either. Notably, Palacios walked (73) more than he struck out (61) in 96 games between Cleveland and St. Louis’s Triple-A affiliates last year.
On defense, Palacios has logged appearances at all three spots in the outfield and second base. Roster Resource projects him to immediately become the Rays’ DH in 2024.
Kittredge, 33, is finally moving on after an impressive seven-year stint on the Rays. The right-hander really only has a few full seasons under his belt, as injuries have been an issue for him.
Last year, he made just 14 appearances with a 3.09 ERA and 139 ERA+. The 2021 All-Star has experience in multiple different roles and will give the Cardinals a nice bullpen arm in what is sure to be an important year for them in 2024.
A Busy Offseason for the Rays
For the Rays, these deals are just a continuation of what’s been an extremely busy offseason. Shipping Manuel Margot and Tyler Glasnow to the Dodgers in exchange for a promising starter and outfielder obviously was only the beginning.
Now, it’s just a matter of what comes next. Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes, two top trade chips, remain on the roster. It’s unclear if the plan is still for them to be shopped in the immediate future, but the possibility is still there.
For what it’s worth, Paredes feels like the better bet between the two of them to be moved. Arozarena has emerged as the face of the franchise and is one of the top reasons fans still bother showing up to the ballpark. Not to mention the fact that he’s likely the Rays’ best hitter and baserunner combined into one player.
The Rays will forever be an organization that will rely heavily on homegrown talent and trade them away before they get too expensive. For some teams, that may not work, but they consistently execute it to perfection. Using this exact method, they sent a 99-win squad out on a nightly basis last season and it feels like the upcoming one will be no different.