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Cardinals Acquire Coveted Matthew Liberatore

At the beginning of the winter, one of the goals the Cardinals had was to use their stockpile of righthanded-hitting outfielders to address needs elsewhere on the roster.

In a series of trades, the Cardinals peeled three outfielders off their roster and added some clarity, nothing for the 2020 team, and one of the top lefthanders in the minors.

Matthew Liberatore, the lefty, is the prize the Cardinals coveted.

St. Louis added Liberatore, the 16th pick in the 2018 draft, in a trade with the Rays that cost them outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena. The teams also swapped supplemental-round draft picks, with the Cardinals moving from a draft position after the first round to one after the second. St. Louis also acquired Rookie-ball catcher Edgardo Rodriguez in the deal.

Arozarena had a big year at Triple-A Memphis. Martinez was the team’s leading pinch-hitter and signed to a two-year deal. Their departure clears the way for others on the roster, but also adds a player the Cardinals have been chasing for more than a year.

The 20-year-old Liberatore recorded a 3.10 ERA at low Class A Bowling Green, and in 78.1 innings he struck out 76 and walked 31. The 6-foot-6 southpaw's fastball touches 97 mph but sits more in the 92-95 range. He is considered one of the most polished high school pitchers from his draft class.

For the Cardinals, Liberatore represented the level of player they rarely get a chance to draft without a pick in the first half of the first round, and his acquisition recoups the talent the team could have had if it didn’t forfeit picks in the 2017 draft as punishment for the Astros hacking scandal.

Liberatore is set to join to lefthander Zack Thompson, the 19th overall pick out of Kentucky in 2019, to form the Cardinals' top two pitching prospects. Both could pitch in the high Class A Palm Beach rotation this season.

Liberatore also reunites with third baseman Nolan Gorman, whom the Cardinals drafted 19th overall in 2018. The two were boyhood friends and former high school rivals in the Phoenix area.


Chris Swauger, a former farmhand in the Cardinals’ organization, has been promoted to field coordinator for the 2020 season. Swauger spent 2019 shadowing Mark DeJohn, who retired after three decades in the organization, but the Cardinals have given Swauger latitude to shape and modernize the role.

— Catcher Edgardo Rodriguez, acquired in the Liberatore deal, is a 19-year-old Venezuelan who hit .338 in his first two pro seasons. He will boxcar with Ivan Herrera as two teens on the catching depth chart. Herrera, also 19, is several levels ahead and considered one of the organization's top prospects.

Cristian Pache Brianwesterholt

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