clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mariners trade Robbie Ray to Giants, José Caballero to Rays in pair of Friday moves to bring Mitch Haniger home

The Death Cabby motors to Tampa and MitchMashes are back on the menu in Seattle

Cleveland Guardians v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

After signing Mitch Garver on Christmas Eve, the Seattle Mariners have continued to pick up the pace of their off-season, completing two swaps today with the San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays.

It started with the Mariners sending the prized off-season acquisition of 2022, Robbie Ray, to the Giants. After missing basically all of 2023 with flexor tendon surgery, Ray should be back to full health by mid-season and will help prop up a Giants rotation that’s been held down by Logan Webb, the dark pact Alex Cobb signed with a sea witch for eternal youth, and not a lot else, thanks to some misses in player development. In return, the Mariners will receive RHP Anthony DeSclafani and former Mariners OF Mitch Haniger.

DeSclafani, who signed a three-year, $36M extension after a 2021 spent with the team, is still owed $12M for 2024. DeSclafani, who appeared in just 24 games after signing that extension, had a flexor strain of his own and has been out of action since July, although he anticipates being back in time for next season. (He also missed some time in 2023 after the objectively hilarious injury of having dropped a piano bench on his toe.) DeSclafani missed most of the 2022 season with ankle surgery, and had been converted to a bulk relief role for the Giants before the elbow injury shut down his season in 2023, so the Mariners rotation projects to look the same as it did before the trade.

While the decision to move on from Ray makes sense given the Mariners’ clear desire to shed salary, it’s nonetheless a disappointing end to the Seattle tenure for the former Cy Young winner. While many fans’ lasting memory of Ray will unfortunately be the home run he surrendered to Yordan Alvarez in the 2022 playoffs, powerfully written about by Zach Mason in what would become Ray’s final 40 in 40 for the site, his real legacy is in the clubhouse, where, even while injured, he was a consistent guiding force for Seattle’s young rotation, someone the young pitchers looked up to and consulted for advice. Ray had an especially strong bond with George Kirby; the two were throwing partners, and Ray was instrumental in helping Kirby develop his splitter, praising the young pitcher as the most naturally talented pitcher he’s seen at developing new pitches since his former teammate Zack Greinke, an accolade that made even the stoic Kirby blush.

Mitch Haniger needs no introduction. One of the longest-tenured Mariners over the Jerry Dipoto regime, Haniger is fondly remembered by this fanbase for his consistency on the field and efforts to break the playoff drought, and was a big part of the 2022 squad that ultimately did. Sadly, following Seattle’s ALDS exit he hightailed it south, signing a three-year deal with his hometown Giants. Haniger, who unfortunately struggled with health in San Francisco as he did in Seattle, is owed $17M this year, with a player option for 2025 at $15.5M. The Giants are sending some cash to the Mariners to balance the current money in the deal, as Ray is owed $23M for 2024, but there are two more years remaining on Ray’s contract for a total of $50M unless he exercises his player opt-out after the 2024 season.

Bringing back Haniger also brings back a voice of experience and leadership in the Mariners clubhouse. With the departure of clubhouse leaders Marco Gonzales, Eugenio Suárez, and now Robbie Ray, Haniger is set to resume his position of leadership in a young clubhouse that scuffled with cohesion and enacting a plan at the plate at times last season.

The next move is a swap of two late bloomers whose 2023 seasons far outpaced expectations in significant part-time roles. Tampa acquires INF José Caballero from Seattle in exchange for OF/1B Luke Raley. Losing Cabby stings, as one of the bright surprises in a solid-but-frustrating 2023 for the M’s. The 27-year-old was a longshot rookie standout, overcoming injuries in 2021 and 2022 that essentially made for three lost seasons to become a sparkplug in Seattle’s time of need. With Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty hampered by injury and Kolten Wong circling the drain, Caballero was a godsend, hitting lefty pitching well with rangy glovework primarily at second base. He swiped bases at a torrid rate, joining Ichiro, Mallex Smith, Chone Figgins, Mark McLemore, Julio Rodríguez, Rickey Henderson, Mike Cameron, Dee Strange-Gordon, Jarrod Dyson, Franklin Gutierrez, and James Jones as the only Mariners in the the 21st century with 25+ steals - and doing so in the 2nd-fewest games played behind Rickey himself. A little bit of Rickey is inside Cabby, as the master of the pitch clock got into opponents heads, using time manipulation, quality pitch discipline, and ample contentment with being hit by pitches to scrape every bit of productivity from the bottom of the barrel. He cooled as the year went on, particularly against righty pitching, but Death Cabby shall not be forgotten.

In his place is Raley, a bat-first player whose emergence has come due to (or in spite of) a series of trades involving some of the league’s more well-regarded developmental groups. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Raley was flipped to the Minnesota Twins as part of the return for Brian Dozier. L.A. reacquired Raley as part of the Kenta Maeda-Brusdar Graterol swap in 2020, before being flipped once again to the Rays for pitching prospect Tanner Dodson in 2022 in a spring training deal. Though he debuted in 2021, Raley only attained consistent playing time in 2023 with Tampa, where he became a prominent slugger from the left side. Raley has long looked the part, despite humble Division-II roots, and when he gets ahold of the ball it looks quite right.

Though he’s a larger player, Raley runs quite well and translates that into taking extra bases frequently, and can provide at least passable corner outfield defense with a cannon for an arm, as well as handling 1B duties. What is notable in acquiring Raley, whose .249/.333/.490 line and a 130 wRC+ in 406 PAs last year would slot quite well into the M’s lineup, is that he is the most prominent player with contact struggles Seattle has brought in this winter. Though he’s shortened his stroke to great success, allowing his immense raw power to play, Raley still ranked among the most whiff-prone hitters in the league, even as he was deployed primarily as a platoon bat against righty pitching. The 29-year-old will be under contract for up to another five seasons, at league-minimum for the next two, which is undoubtedly a major appeal for Seattle. Ostensibly, Raley provides duplicative capabilities but a stronger track record to Dominic Canzone, though given the injury-wracked nature of Haniger and Mitch Garver at times, the club may be seeking to beef up the entire bench and rotation of starters in the lineup. That’s not something I have any complaints about.

The Raley-Caballero trade is not final as of publishing at 1 PM PT, so it is possible more could be included.