Mozeliak DeWitt Girsch

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS ( -- The hot stove finally heated up for the Cardinals Thursday with their first big trade of the offseason.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, St. Louis has acquired touted pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore from the Tampa Bay Rays. Per Passan, the Cardinals are sending Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena in the deal.

Tampa and St. Louis are also swapping competitive balance picks as part of the trade, and the Cardinals are expected to receive a catching prospect to round out the transaction. Ken Rosenthal has reported that catcher is 19-year-old Edgardo Rodriguez.

Listed at 6’5” and 200 pounds, the left-handed Liberatore was taken 16th overall in the 2018 draft by Tampa Bay. In an interesting twist of fate, Liberatore was a former youth baseball teammate of--and remains a close friend to--the Cardinals first round pick from that same 2018 draft, touted third base prospect Nolan Gorman.

According to Baseball Savant, Liberatore has a swing-and-miss curveball while his fastball hits low 90s to 95 mph. Savant also notes his changeup as another promising pitch, adding that it could be his best secondary pitch.

Rated as the top southpaw in the 2018 draft, Liberatore pitched in low-A ball last season, posting a 6-2 record with a 3.10 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 16 games in the Midwest League.

With a knack for timely hitting, Jose Martinez thrived as a regular contributor for the Cardinals during his first couple seasons with the club, boasting a career OPS of .850 as of the end of the 2018 season. His deficiencies as a fielder, however, presented a consistent complication for finding him an everyday position in the lineup.

As his bat lulled to an OPS of .751 last season, the Cardinals found it even more difficult to supply 'Cafecito' with at-bats. Now headed to Tampa Bay, Martinez will benefit from the presence of the designated hitter on an American League club as he looks to regain the hitting stroke he had displayed prior to 2019.

24-year-old outfielder Randy Arozarena lit the Pacific Coast League on fire with his performance as the Memphis Redbirds leadoff man last season, but he was never given much of an opportunity to prove himself at the MLB level during a September call-up late in the year.

It's a distinct possibility the athleticism and tools that allowed Arozarena to thrive in Triple-A will allow him to flourish with the Rays. Given the Cardinals' glut of right-handed hitting outfield options, though, the team's ability to turn a position of depth into a quality left-handed pitcher for its future looks like a savvy move, at first glance.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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