The Rays announced Friday that they’ve placed slugger Luke Raley on the 10-day injured list with a cervical strain and designated right-handed reliever Trevor Kelley for assignment. That pair of moves paves the way for top prospect Junior Caminero to be formally selected to the 40-man roster and called up for his Major League debut — a move first reported to be in the works last night. Caminero’s call to the big leagues is now official, and he should make his debut tonight.
Raley, 29, has just one plate appearance since Sept. 15 due to ongoing discomfort stemming from this injury. His placement on the IL is retroactive to Sept. 21, so he’ll be eligible to return on the final day of the regular season. The hope is surely that the additional downtime will allow him to heal up for the postseason.
A former Dodgers and Twins farmhand, Raley has had a late-blooming breakout during his age-29 campaign with the Rays. In 118 games and 406 plate appearances, the lefty-swinging outfielder/first baseman touts a .249/.333/.490 batting line with 19 home runs, 23 doubles, three triples and 14 steals. His 6.9% walk rate is below the league average, and his 31.4% strikeout rate is about eight percentage points above it. Raley has also been largely shielded from left-handed pitching, though he’s held his own in the 43 plate appearances he’s received.
Limited as the skill set may be, there’s no denying that Raley has been a huge contributor for Tampa Bay this season. A Rays club that entered the year looking quite right-handed was in need of just such a breakout, and he’s provided a sorely needed left-handed bat who’s emerged as a potent threat against opposing righties. In 363 plate appearances with the platoon advantage, Raley has turned in a .247/.337/.497 batting line with 17 of his 19 longballs. He’ll finish out the year with one-plus season of big league service under his belt, so the Rays can control him for another five years via arbitration if they choose — and he won’t even be arb-eligible until after the 2025 campaign.
Kelley, 31 next month, signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay over the winter but was added to the 40-man roster as soon as the Rays were eligible to create roster space via a 60-day IL placement for an injured player. He’s appeared in 10 games and pitched 15 1/3 innings this season but struggled to a 5.87 earned run average in that small sample. Kelley has pitched in the Majors in each of the past four seasons now, also spending time with the Red Sox, Brewers and Phillies. In 50 2/3 big league innings, he’s recorded a 6.75 ERA with a 19.1% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate.
Although his 2023 struggles extend to Triple-A — 5.23 ERA in 32 2/3 frames — Kelley entered the year with an outstanding track record at the top minor league level. From 2019-22, he turned in a 1.81 ERA, 25.7% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate in 164 1/3 innings at the level. Even with this year’s shaky results in Durham, Kelley carries a lifetime 2.38 ERA in 197 innings of Triple-A work.
The Rays will have no recourse but to either place Kelley on outright waivers or unconditional release waivers. He’ll be out of minor league options in 2024, but a team in need of some controllable bullpen depth could place a claim if they’re willing to open a spot on the 40-man roster.