Report: Matthew Liberatore Traded to Cardinals from Rays for Jose Martinez, More

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 27: Matthew Liberatore #21 of the USA Baseball 18U National Team pitches against Iowa Western CC on August 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals have reportedly acquired top starting pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Passan later reported the full details of the trade, which includes outfielder Jose Martinez going to Tampa:

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic added Edgardo Rodriguez is the catching prospect headed to St. Louis.

Martinez is the biggest name going to Tampa after getting regular playing time over the past three years. The 31-year-old hit over .300 in both 2017 and 2018, although his production dropped in 2019 with a .269 batting average and 10 home runs in 373 plate appearances. 

The right fielder still showed great discipline at the plate with a .340 on-base percentage and has a chance to bounce back in 2020 with three more years of team control.

Randy Arozarena could also be an intriguing addition after hitting well at every level last season, beginning in Double-A and ending up in the majors. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .358 with a 1.028 OPS in 64 games of Triple-A and then fared well in his short stint with the Cardinals, going 6-for-20 with two walks and a home run.

Of course, the Rays also gave up a key prospect in this deal.

Liberatore, a first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is considered Tampa Bay's No. 4 prospect and the No. 41 overall player in the minors, per MLB.com.

A 6'5", 200-pound left-hander, Liberatore fared well in his first full season of pro ball in 2019.

The 20-year-old finished the year with a 3.10 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 78.1 innings for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in Single-A. This came after bursting onto the scene with a 1.38 ERA in 32.2 innings across two rookie leagues in 2018.

The Arizona native could move quickly through the minor league ranks with his new team.

St. Louis already has a pair of emerging star pitchers in Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, while Miles Mikolas is under contract through 2023. Quality prospects such as Junior Fernandez and Genesis Cabrera also made their big league debuts in 2019 and could be in for bigger roles in 2020.

If Liberatore lives up to expectations, the NL Central champions could be well set up in the starting rotation going forward.

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