Image credit: Matthew Liberatore (Photo by Cliff Welch)
The Cardinals and Rays struck a blockbuster deal Thursday night involving a trifecta of big leaguers, top prospects and draft picks.
The Cardinals traded outfielder Jose Martinez, their No. 10 prospect Randy Arozarena and the 38th overall pick to the Rays in exchange for their No. 3 prospect Matthew Liberatore, minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez and the No. 66 pick in the draft.
Details of the deal were first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Martinez and Arozarena become the latest additions to the Rays’ outfield mix after they traded Tommy Pham and acquired Hunter Renfroe earlier this offseason. Liberatore, the No. 31 prospect on the BA Top 100, immediately becomes the Cardinals’ top pitching prospect.
The traded picks were Competitive Balance Round picks. The Rays move up 28 spots in the draft and add more than $950,000 to their bonus pool with the swap. The bonus slot amount for the 38th overall pick in 2019 was $1,952,300, while the slot amount for the 66th pick was $1,003,300.
Jose Martinez, 1B/OF
Martinez’s overall numbers fell last year, but he continued to crush lefties with a .329/.397/.600 line against them. Now that he’s in the American League, the famously poor fielder can move primarily to DH and focus on providing the Rays a righthanded power source.
Randy Arozarena, OF
Signed for $1.25 million in 2016 after a decorated career in Cuba, Arozarena made the Cardinals’ postseason roster last year in his major league debut and ranked as their No. 10 prospect entering the 2020 season. A speedy, high-energy player, Arozarena shows feel to hit with line-drive power and plus speed to steal bases. However, he often plays recklessly and is prone to over-swinging at the plate and running into outs on the basepaths. Arozarena has a chance to be an everyday player if he can stay within himself and play under control. Otherwise, he’ll be too inconsistent to play everyday and will settle in to a role as a reserve outfielder. He is adequate at all three outfield positions and has experience at second base, too.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP
Liberatore ranked as the top pitching prospect in the 2018 draft but slid to the 16th overall pick due to his bonus demands. He spent his first full season in 2019 at low Class A Bowling Green and went 6-2, 3.10 with 76 strikeouts and 31 walks in 78.1 innings before he was shut down with back spasms. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Liberatore stands out for his projectable frame and polish as much as his stuff. His fastball comfortably sits at 92-94 mph and can reach 96-97, and he mixes it well with a potentially plus curveball and average changeup. He also has a fringy slider that may become average. Liberatore throws all his offerings for strikes, commands the ball to both sides of the plate and has a natural feel for pitching. He projects as a mid-rotation starter at least, with many seeing a chance for more as he continues to grow and develop.
Edgardo Rodriguez, C
Rodriguez signed with the Rays for $70,000 in 2017 as a member of the same international class as Wander Franco. Rodriguez is a bat-first, mature-bodied catcher who may have to move off the position. He has a below-average arm and is a below-average receiver, although he did improve over the course of the year. He has hit early in his career, batting .338/.389/495 between the DSL and Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in two seasons. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills and makes loud contact with a strength-based swing.