Cardinals ship Martinez to Rays for touted arm

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays for touted left-handed pitching prospect Matt Liberatore and low-level catching prospect Edgardo Rodriguez, the teams announced Thursday night.

St. Louis also sent a competitive balance Round A pick (38th overall) to Tampa Bay, which sent its Round B pick (66th overall) to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals and Rays had been in active conversations with multiple teams as Tampa Bay tried to add outfield help and St. Louis sought to divest itself of its surplus, according to sources with knowledge of the teams’ intentions.

Liberatore, 20, is a consensus top-100 prospect and is regarded by some as the second-best left-handed prospect in the minor leagues behind San Diego’s MacKenzie Gore.

Chosen with the 16th pick of the 2018 draft, Liberatore spent 2019 in the Rays’ low-A affiliate with Bowling Green of the Midwest League and posted a 3.10 ERA over 78⅓ innings. He struck out 76, walked 31 and allowed only two home runs.

With a farm system regarded as the best in baseball, Tampa Bay reached into its cache of prospects to supplement its major league team, which won the American League wild-card game and took the Houston Astros to a deciding fifth game in the division series.

The Rays had been targeting outfield help to complement left fielder Hunter Renfroe, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and right fielder Austin Meadows. They should get it with Martinez, a 31-year-old right-handed bat who hit .305 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2018. His numbers dipped some this past season, as Martinez posted a .269-10-42 line and missed time in August with a shoulder injury.

Martinez has a .296 batting average since his first full season in the majors in 2017, which is the eighth-best mark in the National League among the 83 players with at least 1,000 at bats, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

The speedy Arozarena, meanwhile, was called up by St. Louis in August when Martinez went on the injured list. The Cuba-born 24-year-old was hitting .344 in the minors before his call-up, and then went 6-for-20 for the Cards during the regular season before making five postseason appearances (0-for-4). It was during those playoffs when he made what he called a “rookie mistake” by streaming live on Instagram a video of St. Louis manager Mike Shildt giving a fiery, expletive-filled speech to his team following a win over the Braves in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.

The Cardinals also have discussed trading outfielder Dexter Fowler and still could move him in another deal, sources said, as top prospect Dylan Carlson is expected to play a significant role in St. Louis’ outfield.

Rodriguez, 19, was in the Gulf Coast League this past season, hitting .400 in limited action (25 at-bats).

Also Thursday, the Rays sent right-hander Austin Pruitt to the Houston Astros in exchange for minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson and pitcher Peyton Battenfield.

Pruitt was 3-0 with a 4.40 ERA in 14 appearances, including two starts, last season.

Also, Rays reliever Chaz Roe avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $2,185,200, one-year deal.

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