street. PETERSBURG — On the same day their star shortstop faced serious legal challenges in his homeland, the Rays on Friday made a move to secure their defense. They acquired infielder Jose Caballero from the Mariners for outfielder/first baseman Luke Raleigh.
To replace Raley, Tampa Bay dealt reliever Andrew Kittredge to St. Louis for outfielder Richie Palacios.
Caballero, 27, provides solid insurance for the Rays with All-Star shortstop Wander Franco looking at an uncertain future and Taylor Walls coming off hip surgery. While President of Baseball Operations Eric Neander declined to comment on Franco's status, he said it was unlikely Walls would be ready for Opening Day.
Neander said the Rays are comfortable with Caballero at shortstop on Opening Day.
“This trade made us confident in his ability to play shortstop,” Neander said. “His makeup, his work ethic, his ability out there. He can play it and play it very well. … He'll have a chance to get it out of the gates.
Of his 104 games with Seattle last season, Caballero played 21 at shortstop and 64 at second base. A right-handed hitter, he hit .221 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He hits fairly well left-handed (.265) but is desired mostly for his defense and base running speed.
Caballero's Fielding Run Value, Statcast's overall metric for measuring defensive performance on a run-based metric, is plus 6, which is in the top 83 percent. Its above average rating is 8, which is in the top 94%. Its speed ranks first 90%.
Due to Ray's salary caps, the Diamondbacks' seventh-round pick in 2017 is not arbitration eligible until 2026 and cannot become a free agent until 2030. He also has minor league options.
Raleigh, who turns 30 in September, hit a career-high 19 homers and drove in 49 runs last season with the Rays.
Palacios doesn't have the same power, but he is a younger, serviceable left-handed bat. He hit .258 with six doubles, six home runs and 16 RBIs in 32 games for the Cardinals last season. He also has minor league options remaining.
Kittredge, 33, built himself into an All-Star with the Rays in 2021 but was limited the final two seasons following Tommy John surgery in June 2022. He had a 2-0 record, 3.09 ERA and one save in 11⅔ innings over 14 appearances. Last season.
With the first full-squad workout coming up in less than two months, the Rays' center field was uncertain.
Franco, who is charged with commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering in his native Dominican Republic, has been in detention since Monday for ignoring a subpoena. On Friday, a judge ordered his conditional release while the investigation continues.
Stay up to date on the Tampa Bay sports scene
Sign up for our free Sports Today newsletter
We'll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida college football teams daily.
You're all signed up!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let's get started.
Explore all your options
Franco, who signed an 11-year, $182 million contract with the Rays in November 2021, has not played in a game since Aug. 12.
It is possible that Walls, who took over after Franco was placed on administrative leave, will return early in the season, but there is no set date. Junior Caminero Oslivis Basabe and Curtis Mead, who made their debuts last season, may get opportunities to play as well.
Overall, Neander said the roster is balanced now, but both deals leave room for the team to grow.
“Like Raleigh and Josh Lowe last year, they took big steps forward,” Neander said. “This creates room for opportunity for the likes of (Jonathan) Aranda, Mead and Caminero. … There is room in the system to gain jobs.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.
“Beer enthusiast. Subtly charming alcohol junkie. Wannabe internet buff. Typical pop culture lover.”