Rays Acquire Martinez, Arozarena From St. Louis In Six Player Deal


Photo: Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG (WDAE) -- The Tampa Bay Rays have been rated as having one of the best farm systems in Major League Baseball, and are now looking at using some of it to help their chances to make the postseason for a second straight year in 2020.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Rays have agreed to a trade that will send left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore to the St. Louis Cardinals. No names have been revealed as to who the Rays will get in return, but Passan says Major League players are expected to be involved.

Liberatore, 20, was ranked by MLB.com as the #4 prospect in the Rays organization. He spent 2019 at Low-A Bowling Green, going 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 appearances, including 15 starts, totaling 78.1 innings. The 6'5", 200 pound lefty was Tampa Bay's first-round pick, 16th overall, in 2018.

UPDATE 6:35 pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the deal between the Rays and Cardinals will involve six players with three players on each side being exchanged, though Liberatore at the moment is the only player still being mentioned.

UPDATE 7:25 pm: Passan reports that Liberatore will be packaged with a low-level catching prospect and the team's Round B competitive balance pick, while St. Louis will send outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, plus their Round A competitive balance pick. Rosenthal reports the catching prospect going from Tampa Bay to St. Louis is 19-year-old Edgardo Rodriguez, who played in the Gulf Coast League in 2019.

Martinez, who turns 32 in July, played in 128 games, starting 80. He hit .268/.340/.410 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI. His best year came in 2018, when he hit .305/.364/.457 with 17 homers and 83 RBI in 152 games.

Arozarena, a 24-year-old from Havana, Cuba who made his big league debut in 2019, hit .300/.391/.500 with a home run and a pair of RBI in 23 plate appearances. At Triple-A Memphis, he hit .358/.435/.593 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 64 games.

The Rays have confirmed the deal, with their press release below:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Tampa Bay Rays Communications) — The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired first baseman/designated hitter José Martínez, outfielder Randy Arozarena and a Competitive Balance Round A draft pick (No. 38 overall) from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for minor league left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore, minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick (No. 66 overall). A corresponding move to the 40-man roster will be announced later.

Martínez, 31, enters the second year of a two-year, $3.25 million contract and is arbitration-eligible through the 2022 season. He is a career .298/.363/.458 (344-for-1,156) hitter over parts of four major league seasons, all with the Cardinals, including a .305 avg. (163-for-534) in 2018 to finish seventh in the National League. Among active players with at least 250 at-bats against left-handed pitching, Martínez ranks among major league leaders in avg. (.331, fourth), on-base pct. (.405, eighth) and slugging pct. (.570, 11th). Over his major league career, he has appeared at right field (138 games, 120 starts), first base (118 games, 113 starts), left field (35 games, 26 starts) and designated hitter (19 games, all starts).

In 2019, Martínez hit .269/.340/.410 (90-for-334) with 10 home runs and 42 RBI in 128 games (80 starts), splitting time between right field (75 games, 68 starts), designated hitter (eight games, all starts) and left field (seven games, four starts). He missed three weeks in August due to a right shoulder sprain and hit just .228/.333/.370 (21-for-92) following the All-Star break, compared to a team-leading .285 avg. (69-for-242) over 85 games (58 starts) in the first half.

Martínez made his major league debut as a 27-year-old in September 2016 after 10 seasons and 887 games in the minors between the Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals and Cardinals organizations.

Arozarena (ah-row-sah-RAY-nah), 24, is currently ranked by both Baseball America and MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in the Cardinals organization. Last season, he hit .300/.391/.500 (6-for-20) in 19 games (four starts) over two stints with the Cardinals, his first career major league action. He also played for Double-A Springfield in the Texas League and Triple-A Memphis in the Pacific Coast League, batting .344/.431/.571 (118-for-343) with 15 home runs, 53 RBI and 17 stolen bases between the two levels. He played two seasons in the Cuban National Series and one season in the Mexican League before signing with the Cardinals on August 1, 2016. Over three minor league seasons, he is batting .292/.377/.477 (330-for-1,129) with 38 home runs and 151 RBI, including a selection to the World team for the 2018 Futures Game at Nationals Park.

Liberatore, 20, was selected by the Rays in the first round (16th overall) of the 2018 June Draft out of Mountain Ridge (Ariz.) High School. He spent last season with Class-A Bowling Green, going 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA (78.1-IP, 27-ER) in 16 appearances (15 starts). He was named the Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June, going 4-1 with a 0.55 ERA (33-IP, 2-ER) in five starts. Following the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 31 overall prospect in the minors.

Rodriguez, 19, played 51 games for the Dominican Summer League Rays in 2018 but was limited to 10 games with the Gulf Coast League Rays last season. Over his two minor league seasons, he is batting .338/.389/.495 (73-for-216) with six home runs and 40 RBI in 61 games. He was signed by the Rays on July 3, 2017 out of Valencia, Venezuela.

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