The hot stove finally began to heat up this week now that the holidays are over, and the St. Louis Cardinals decided to jump in on the fun and acquire a surprise name from the Tampa Bay Rays to upgrade their bullpen in former All-Star closer Andrew Kittredge. The Cardinals will be sending outfielder Richie Palacios to Tampa Bay in the deal, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman.
Kittredge, 33, was an All-Star for the Rays in 2021 after posting a 1.88 ERA in 71.2 innings of work. He started off the 2022 season strong for the Rays but was sidelined after 17 games due to Tommy John surgery, and was able to make 14 appearances with Tampa Bay in 2023 to close out the year.
Kittredge features a three-pitch mix, primarily being a sinker-slider guy who mixes in a four-seam fastball occasionally. His sinker sits in the mid-90s and the slider is in the high-80s with a good break on it. According to FanGraphs, his sinker graded out with a 111 Stuff+ and his slider was at a 124 Stuff+ in his return from injury in 2023.
Kittredge brings both experience and pedigree to the back of the Cardinals bullpen, strengthening their late-inning mix that already featured Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, and JoJo Romero. It's been reported by multiple outlets that the Cardinals intend to add another free-agent reliever to their bullpen, and it is unclear at this point if those plans will now change.
Palacios was acquired from the Cleveland Guardians for cash considerations last year, and in his brief 32-game stretch with St. Louis toward the end of the year, posted a 0.5 WAR and .823 OPS while playing really solid defense in all three outfield spots. The Cardinals, who already have a plethora of outfielders, used their depth here to upgrade at a position of need going into 2024.
The Cardinals may decide to stand pat with their bullpen after this addition going into Spring Training, but if they were to add one more arm via free agency, they would have turned a major weakness from 2023 into a potential strength for next season. The Cardinals are reportedly open to trading for another starting pitcher as well, with Dylan Cease being linked to them by Ken Rosenthal on Thursday night.