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Cardinals Acquire Matt Liberatore from Rays for Jose Martinez

Randy Arozarena and a draft pick are also going to Tampa. A catching prospect and draft pick are coming over with Liberatore.

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday evening, the Cardinals made their first trade of the offseason. And man, it became quite the blockbuster.

A little before 4:00 PM Central time, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the Rays had traded pitching prospect Matt Liberatore to St. Louis for a Major League outfielder. Almost two hours later, we heard from Ken Rosenthal that the trade was more than just a one-for-one swap; it is, in fact, a six-piece trade, including two draft picks and three pieces moving from each side.

So, after we pondered that for a bit, Passan eventually came through with details of the whole deal about 20 after 6:00. The Cardinals are sending Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena, and a Competitive Balance Round A pick to the Rays for Liberatore, a catching prospect, and a Competitive Balance Round B pick.

The 20-year-old, left-handed Liberatore was one of Tampa Bay’s highest-rated prospects; he was the 16th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, coming fresh out of high school. Liberatore, armed with a mid-90s fastball, nasty curve and promising changeup, posted a 3.10 ERA with 76 punchouts in 78 1⁄3 innings for the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2019. With Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson making names for themselves in St. Louis, the Cardinals’ could have a daunting rotation if Liberatore pans out as expected.

The trading of Martinez and Arozarena brings some clarity to a crowded outfield situation. With Harrison Bader in center and Dexter Fowler in right, moving Martinez allows the Cardinals to possibly re-sign Marcell Ozuna without blocking someone who deserves consistent, frequent playing time. Parting ways with Martinez and Arozarena clears up two 40-man roster spots (of two players not likely for starting spots) for a popular, left-handed (!!) pitching prospect.

We will have more on this trade soon. Stay tuned!