The Rays and Dodgers agreed to a deal this afternoon, announcing that corner outfielder Luke Raley has been traded to Tampa Bay. Los Angeles is acquiring pitching prospect Tanner Dodson in return. In order to clear space on the 40-man roster, the Rays placed Yonny Chirinos on the 60-day injured list.
Raley made his major league debut this past season. He didn’t perform well over his first 72 plate appearances, striking out 25 times while drawing just a pair of walks. The 27-year-old has a much better minor league track record, as he’s hit .289/.367/.489 in five minor league campaigns since being drafted in the seventh round in 2016. That includes a .297/.384/.553 showing over 456 plate appearances in Triple-A.
A lack of defensive value has limited Raley’s prospect appeal, but he’s ranked near the back half of the Dodgers’ top 30 farmhands for the past few seasons in the estimation of Baseball America. The outlet credits Raley with big raw power, albeit with some trepidation about an aggressive approach at the plate. Tampa Bay isn’t the only other organization who has tried (and succeeded) in prying Raley away from the Dodgers. The Twins acquired him from Los Angeles at the 2018 trade deadline in exchange for Brian Dozier. Minnesota sent him back to L.A. a year and a half later in the three-team Mookie Betts/Kenta Maeda trade.
Raley is affordable and can step right into the big league mix for Tampa Bay. He still has a minor league option year remaining, so the Rays needn’t carry him on the active roster. Yet he’ll bolster the organizational depth and could see a more immediate path to playing time if Tampa Bay pulls the trigger on an Austin Meadows trade. Recent reports have indicated the Rays are considering shipping Meadows elsewhere.
The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for the Dodgers, who have signed each of Jimmy Nelson, Danny Duffy and Freddie Freeman in recent days. They’ve devoted just one immediate roster spot to that trio — Los Angeles purposefully waited to finalize Freeman’s deals until after signing Duffy and Nelson so they could put both pitchers on the 60-day injured list — but they’ve also agreed to terms with Tyler Anderson. They’ll need to clear another roster spot to accommodate Anderson’s arrival.
In addition, Los Angeles picks up Dodson, whom the Rays selected 71st overall in the 2018 draft. A two-way player at Cal, he continued to work in both capacities early in his professional career. Scouts have long questioned how much offensive upside he’d have due to a lack of raw power, though, and he’s worked primarily off the mound in recent years. He tallied just 30 plate appearances in High-A last season but worked 56 1/3 innings as a reliever.
Between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery, Dodson combined for a 3.20 ERA. He struck out a solid 26.3% of opponents against a 9.5% walk rate. The Rays declined to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft (which never ended up taking place) this offseason. He didn’t appear among Baseball America’s top 30 organizational prospects this winter, but Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote in January 2021 that his low-mid 90s fastball and slider could make him a viable big league reliever.
Chirinos, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2020. The righty fractured his elbow last year, a setback that was always expected to prevent him being ready for Opening Day. Precisely when he might return isn’t clear, but he’ll miss at least the first two months of this season.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the terms of the trade.