The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired left-handed hitting outfielder Richie Palacios from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for oft-injured, high leverage reliever Andrew Kittredge.
Palacios, 26, projects as the fifth outfielder on the Rays roster behind Randy Arozarena, Jose Siri, Josh Lowe, and the recently acquired Jonny DeLuca and has one option remaining on his rookie contract. He will not reach contract arbitration until 2026, and is under team control until 2030.
As a left handed hitting outfielder with major league experience, Palacios is the clear replacement for OF Luke Raley, who was traded simultaneously to the Seattle Mariners for a utility infielder that can compete for the Rays SS position on the Opening Day roster in 2024.
Palacios hit .258/.307/.516 (24-for-93) with six doubles, six home runs and 16 RBI in 32 games for the Cardinals last season after being acquired midseason from Cleveland on June 16, 2023 (in exchange for cash considerations). He then played 40 games for Triple-A Memphis before making his St. Louis debut on August 17 and finishing the year with the major league side.
Originally selected by Cleveland in the third round of the 2018 draft (103 overall), Palacios made his major league debut with the Guardians in 2022 and hit .232 (26-for-112) across 54 games. A strictly platooned player thus far, Palacios has a low-walk, low-strikeout track record with a 75 wRC+ vs opposite handed pitching (199 PA).
While Palacios has significantly less power than Raley, and was recently given a rock-bottom 20-grade for his fielding by FanGraphs at his debut, part of the importance of Palacios is that he will not block other young players like Curtis Mead or Jonathan Aranda from picking up playing time.
Side note: Palacios was utilized by the Guardians in their interview process for a new hitting coach after the 2022 season. For more detail on that story, check out this article from David Laurila at FanGraphs.
Palacios should get his opportunities in 2024, even if it’s not on the Opening Day roster, and should add a scrappy spark when he plays. His pedigree as a high draft pick also offers the Rays a lotto ticket that would not be painful to cut in future seasons if it doesn’t pan out.
The return for Palacios is Andrew Kittredge.
Projected to make $2.3 million next season, the 33-year old Kittredge threw 11.2 IP and allowed 4 ER with one save in 14 appearances for the Rays in 2023, the team with which he’s spent his entire major league career. The longbeard of the bullpen (literally and figuratively), he was acquired from Seattle on after the 2016 season, and had thus far played his entire major league career in Tampa Bay.
Originally drafted in the 45th round in 2008, Kittredge put up a 3.65 ERA and 15 saves across his 181 career appearances (including 15 appearances as opener), and was named to the 2021 All-Star team as the team’s de facto closer.
There are several stories we’ve written about Andrew Kittredge over the years, who was always kind enough to talk with me in the clubhouse. If you’re looking for my favorite story I’ve written about Andrew Kittredge, I’d recommend revisiting this deep dive on his pitches and the influence of Driveline’s weighted ball method on his development in 2019:
Kittredge would go on to finish the the 2019 as the best pitcher in baseball at getting hitters to swing at pitches outside the zone.
But if you’re looking for my Favorite Andrew Kittredge Story, it’s Kevin Cash retelling his experience informing Andrew Kittredge he was being added to the 2021 All-Star team: