Cardinals acquire top pitching prospect in deal sending José Martínez, Arozarena to Rays

José Martínez hit .298 with an .821 OPS over 398 career games with the Cardinals, while Randy Arozarena hit .300 with an .891 OPS over 19 major league games in 2019.
Dale Zanine/Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals acquired a top pitching prospect and another minor leaguer Thursday in a four-player trade that sent hitting machine José Martínez and young fellow outfielder Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Coming to the Cardinals are left-hander Matthew Liberatore and minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez. The teams also swapped compensation draft picks, with the Rays getting the 38th overall pick and the Cardinals the 66th overall selection.

“We are extremely excited to be adding a top pitching prospect in Matthew Liberatore to our organization, and this trade also helps us to create more opportunity in the outfield for players like Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and others,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said.

Liberatore, 20, was first-round draft selection in 2018, the 16th pick overall, out of Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz. He was the No. 3-ranked prospect in the Tampa Bay organization.

Liberatore is 8-4 with a 2.59 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 25 minor league games (24 starts) spanning 111.0 innings. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder was 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) for Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League in 2019.

The Rays made Liberatore the club’s highest-ever selection of a high school pitcher after he was named Arizona’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year and a first-team Rawlings/Perfect Game All-American.

Rodriguez, 19, has a .338 batting average, six home runs and 40 RBIs since being signed in July 2017 as an international free agent out of Venezuela. He bats right-handed.

Martínez, 31, has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent hitters since being obtained from Kansas City in May 2016. He has a .298 career average with 41 homers, 172 RBIs and an .821 OPS in 1,156 at-bats.

Arozarena signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals in August 2016. The 24-year-old made his major league debut last season, getting six hits in 20 at-bats. He batted a combined .344 with 15 homers, 53 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 92 games with Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis in 2019.