Tampa Bay Rays Trade Matthew Liberatore to the St. Louis Cardinals in Six Player Deal
In a mini blockbuster move the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a six-player trade. The Rays will receive first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, outfielder Randy Arozarena and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance Round A draft pick in the 2020 draft. The Cardinals, in turn, will receive left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, catching prospect Edgardo Rodriguez and the Rays Competitive Balance Round B pick in the 2020 draft.
The Cardinals have an abundance of outfielders. In addition to Martinez and Arozarena, the Red Birds also have Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Dexter Fowler. It makes a ton of sense for the Cardinals to cash in on some much need pitching. And they got one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in the game in Matthew Liberatore. Liberatore, the 16th pick in 2018, has had very encouraging results thus far in his young career. He has posted a 2.59 ERA and a 9.52 K/9 over his first 111 professional innings. With three potential above-average pitchers many scouts and prospect lists are very high on the southpaw.
The Cardinals clearly were in need of a starter, although at only 20 years old Liberatore may require some more minor league seasoning. Behind Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, there is not a lot of stability in the Cardinals rotation. It also may be a sign that top prospect Dylan Carlson will be pushed quickly to the big leagues after his phenomenal 2019 campaign.
The Rays have made it a habit of making out of the blue trades and this is no different. Although the outfield seems set with Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier and recently acquired Hunter Renfroe, the Rays were still looking for outfield depth. They got that in Arozarena, who made a short cameo appearance last year in the big leagues. He has plus speed and can cover all outfield positions which will be key late in games when the Rays look to add a little stronger defender in the outfield.
The Rays also get Jose Martinez, who seems like a perfect DH given his defensive shortcomings. Martinez could also play the outfield in a pinch, but his biggest contribution will be a lefty masher. The 31-year-old has a great track record against left-handed pitching with a .331/.405/.570 line for his career. The Rays have plenty of DH/1B options at the moment; except they all hit left-handed. Martinez will give Rays manager Kevin Cash some flexibility.
This trades comes off as a little bit of a shocker. Young top pitching prospects like Matthew Liberatore are not traded often. That’s not to say that the Rays didn’t plug up some holes – they certainly did – but it just seems that the Rays could have gotten a full-time starter in return. With that being said, the Rays have a long track record of being extremely clever. It’s not hard seeing a path where the Rays come out on top here.
For now, the Cardinals are going to be considered the winner because they filled a position of need with a position that was basically a messy logjam. Don’t sleep on the fact that it also opens a clearer path to playing time for stud prospect Dylan Carlson. Overall, it’s a trade between two teams that are clearly trying to fill needs. The Cardinals may appear to come out on top, but once the dust settles (some rumors are swirling another trade may follow this) things could change. Let’s start the season already!