The baseball offseason is alive again. The St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays finalized a massive blockbuster deal on Thursday night that involves four players and two competitive balance draft selections. The players involved going to the Rays are outfielder Randy Arozarena and first baseman Jose Martinez. Meanwhile, St. Louis will land pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore and minor-league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez.
ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan was first to report the news, while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was first with the Rodriguez info.
The St. Louis Cardinals are trading OF Jose Martinez, OF Randy Arozarena and a Compensation A pick (after 1st round) to the Tampa Bay Rays for LHP prospect Matt Liberatore, a low-level catching prospect and Compensation B pick (post-2nd), sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 10, 2020
Arozarena, 24, was an international signing by the Cardinals out of Cuba who made his big-league debut in 2019. In a small yet promising sample size of 19 games, he slashed .300/.391/.500 with two RBI on six hits, including one double and one home run. As evidenced by his 2019 statistics, he spent most of his season in the minors between Double- and Triple-A. In 92 games of affiliated ball, he slashed .344/.431/.571 with 53 RBI on 118 hits, including 15 homers. He also stole 17 bases on 29 attempts while recording 71 strikeouts and 37 walks. His big-league fWAR production in 2019 turned out to be 1.1 fWAR offensively and 0.5 fWAR defensively.
Martinez, 31, is also an international signing as the Cardinals plucked him from Venezuela in his teenage years. He made his majors debut in 2016 but appeared in just 12 games; his first significant season was 2017 when he appeared in 106 games. In 2019, he played in 128 games, slashing .269/.340/.410 with 42 RBI on 90 hits, including 10 home runs. He also walked 35 times and struck out 82. It was arguably a down year for Martinez, who holds a 162-game average of 70 RBI on 140 hits with 17 home runs, 48 walks, and 101 strikeouts plus a .298/.363/.458 slash line. He posted 0.3 fWAR in 2019, a ranking that was also down compared to his 1.6 score in 2017 and 2.4 tally in 2018. He also recorded a .328 BABIP and 101 WRC+ in 2019.
Liberatore is a 20-year-old southpaw who was drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft by the Rays and went 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 15 games and one relief appearance in Single-A last season. He ended up allowing just two home runs among 70 total hits in 78.1 innings. He struck out 76 batters and walked 31 while amassing a .237 opponent batting average and 1.29 WHIP. Liberatore is MLB.com’s 41st-best prospect in all of baseball. He is also listed as No. 4 on the list of Rays prospects as well as the pitching prospects list. Standing at 6-foot-5, Liberatore holds a nasty curveball that was handed a 60 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale; overall, he was given a 55 grade. He has decent control and solid velocity with a fastball that touches 95 MPH. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup.
Rodriguez, 19, was an international signing out of Venezuela in 2018. This past season, with then Rays’ GCL affiliate, he slashed .400/.429/.520 with four RBI, a double, and a triple in a small sample six of 10 games. With Tampa Bay’s DSL affiliate in 2018, he slashed .330/.384/.492 with a larger sample size of 51 games while recording 34 RBI on 63 hits, including six home runs, while stealing one base on two attempts, walking 12 times, and striking out 19.
As for the draft picks on the move, the only type of picks that can be traded are competitive balance selections from Rounds A and B. The Rays will receive the No. 38 pick (Round A) while then Cardinals land No. 66 (Round B).
Arozarena, Liberatore, and Rodriguez are all still playing on cheap contracts as they are not yet arbitration-eligible. Martinez, meanwhile, will be paid $2,125,000 in 2020 and is arbitration-eligible in 2021 and 2022.
The Cardinals will now focus on competing in the NL Central for years to come with the acquisition of one of baseball’s best pitching prospects while the Rays get their hands on a pair of talented defenders with promise and excellence at the plate.