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>>Cardinals Send OF Martinez to Tampa for Pitching Prospect

 

On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a sizable trade. The Rays acquired outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena as well as a draft pick in exchange for left-handed prospect Matthew Liberatore, and low-level catching prospect Edgardo Rodriguez, and a draft pick, the teams announced.

 

Martinez, 31, is the only veteran involved in the deal. He's an offense-only player who has appeared destined for the American League due to his well-below-average defense at various positions. Even so, he's posted a 119 OPS+ for his big-league career, and is under team control through the 2022 season. Martinez figures to split time between DH and first base for the Rays, serving as a right-handed caddy for Ji-Man Choi and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. 

 

Arozarena, who turns 25 in February, made his big-league debut last season. He should factor into the Rays' outfield, perhaps in a platoon capacity with Austin Meadows. 

 

Liberatore, 20, was the 16th pick in the 2018 draft. He didn't make the Rays' top-five prospect list for us due to the depth of their system, but he has a good fastball-breaking ball combination and feel for throwing strikes and a changeup. He's a few years away from the majors, yet he could become a quality starter.

 

Liberatore entered draft season in contention to be the top prep arm off the board. He slipped on draft day, however, and the Rays took advantage by taking him in the middle of the first round, just ahead of the Cardinals' spot, amusingly enough. St. Louis chose Nolan Gorman. Liberatore spent last season in A-ball, where he appeared 15 times and tallied 78 innings. He posted a 3.10 ERA and he recorded 2.45 strikeouts per walk. 

 

While this deal thins out some of the Cardinals' immediate outfield depth, it's a hard one to pass on from a value perspective. The Cardinals essentially netted a top-100 prospect type for multiple pieces who were not going to start for them this season and perhaps not even next. 

 

The Cardinals likely aren't done on the outfield side of things, either. They could conceivably bring back free agent Marcell Ozuna, and have been willing to eat money to move Dexter Fowler's contract, per league sources.

 

>>Cardinals Among Thin List of Teams Interested in Arenado

 

There's a reasonable chance that the Rockies trade star third baseman Nolan Arenado before Opening Day, and suffice it to say he'd be among the very biggest names on the trade market. 

 

Arenado, who's going into his age-29 season, remains an elite defender at the hot corner, and he's also finished in the top 10 or top five of the NL MVP balloting in each of the last five seasons. 

 

As for the financial commitment, it's a substantial one. Arenado last February signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with Colorado that includes an opt-out after the 2021 season. If Arenado doesn't use that opt-out, then he's still owed $234 million. 

 

So who might be willing to assume such an obligation? Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, in one of his usual and wide-ranging must-reads, names two possibilities: The Cardinals and the Rangers. 

 

The Cardinals are poised to get by at third base with some combination of Matt Carpenter and Tommy Edman. Carpenter, however, may be in his deep decline phase and thus stretched as a lineup primary, and the Cardinals may prefer to deploy Edman as a multi-positional super-utility sort. In that light, Arenado would indeed be a fit for the reigning NL Central champs.

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