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Rays acquire INF José Caballero from Mariners for OF Luke Raley

Rays sell high on fifth outfielder Luke Raley, secure a potential answer at SS for 2024.

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners are completing a trade that will trade 29-year old, power hitting fifth outfielder Luke Raley for a desperately needed potential answer at shortstop for 2024 in 28-year old infielder Jose Caballero.

Known for his speed and decision making on the basepaths, Caballero is a plus defender (with high marks from both DRS and OAA) who covered 21 games at shortstop for the Mariners in his rookie season, while getting the lions share of opportunities at second base across his 104 games played.

The acquisition of Caballero should take pressure off the Rays to force Basabe into the majors to start the season, and could even lead to an open competition for shortstop alongside Taylor Walls — depending on his recovery timeline from offseason hip surgery — and prospect Osleivis Basabe, who finished 2023 as the team’s primary 6.

Caballero is an ideal fit for the Rays roster not only for his positional flexibility and pull happy swing, but his optionable status. Despite entering his age-28 season, Caballero will have three options available moving forward as he did not make his debut until 2023.

Caballero was drafted in the seventh round in 2017 by the Arizona Diamondbacks and traded to the Seattle Mariners for Mike Leake after the 2019 season. Previous to the draft, Caballero was the MVP for JUCO champions Chipola College (Marianna, FL). Internationally, Caballero plays for Team Panama.

In return the Rays send OF Luke Raley, who put up a 2.6 win season for Tampa Bay in 2023, appearing in 118 games and offering the lineup some needed pop as various players were injured. He was acquired ahead of the 2022 season in exchange for converted pitching prospect Tanner Dodson.

On both the 2023 Rays and the 2024 project roster Raley was the fifth outfielder, and sixth if you include Harold Ramirez whose bat took precedent in the team’s lineup last year as the primary DH. By sending him to Seattle, the Rays deal from a position of depth to add at a position of need, making this an ideal move.