Cardinals trade Richie Palacios for Andrew Kittredge
Yes, they did it. The St. Louis Cardinals went back to team that had seemingly fleeced them in the Randy Arozarena deal, this time shipping outfielder Richie Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays for veteran right-handed relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge.
Palacios was an unexpected breakout performer for the Cardinals amid a season of disappointments after the team purchased his contract from the Cleveland Guardians in June. He hit .258 with an .823 OPS, but with the Cardinals' outfield cluster, the front office decided to use him as a piece to net some bullpen help.
Kittredge was an All-Star in 2021, owning a 1.88 ERA and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and an outstanding opposing chase rate of 40.7%. The ever-frugal Rays dealt him before his last year of arbitration, and the Cardinals will hope that he can find the strikeout stuff he showed in his All-Star season before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2022 and returning in August of 2023. In those two years, Kittredge's strikeout rate dropped to 6.8 and his ground ball rate declined from 53.5% to 42.7%.
There is a chance that the cutting-edge Rays can utilize Palacios' pull tendencies from last season — he hit 44% of his fly balls to his pull side — to raise his game another level. Cardinals fans might be nervous about Palacios finding sustained success in Tampa Bay, but it was a necessary move to shore up the bullpen with an established high-leverage reliever, even if the pitcher who will be 34 in mid-March is on the downside of his career.