It’s a mystery return so far, but the Cardinals are making a significant trade with the Rays, based on what they’re getting back.
Well-regarded pitching prospect Matt Liberatore has been traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the St. Louis Cardinals, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. It's part of a trade expected to send major league pieces back to Tampa Bay, which has been searching for outfield bats.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 9, 2020
Is it Jose Martinez, maybe? Seems like a Rays type of target, though Liberatore seems like a big return for Martinez. The Cardinals have a surplus of young outfielders (in theory, though none are top tier), so maybe they are also sending a reliever? I don’t know. Just thinking out loud until we hear more.
Liberatore was the Rays’ first rounder in 2018, and was ranked 41st overall in baseball by MLB Pipeline in their final season update last year. He had a meh year at A-ball this past season, though he was just 19 and in his first full pro season. Not sure how much the results would tell you, relative to what the scouts think of his potential future. He’s a legit prospect, albeit pretty far away from the big leagues.
The Cardinals are probably getting him to send to the Rockies for Nolan Arenado … (kidding! kidding! probably!).
UPDATE: The details are apparently still being worked out, but outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, and Lane Thomas all come in for hypothetical mention:
#Cardinals close to trading from #MLB roster for top pitching prospect Liberatore from #Rays, @JeffPassan first reports. I'm told such a deal is "developing." Here's info, with why/who #stlcards have been entertaining offers on this winter: https://t.co/YoYVOXnPr4
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) January 9, 2020
UPDATE 2: Six pieces involved, including draft picks (remember, only competitive balance picks are tradable, so hooray that the Cardinals get free picks!):
The trade between the #Rays and #STLCards is a big one, involving six pieces, three on each side, sources tell The Athletic. At least two of those pieces are draft picks. LHP Matthew Liberatore, heading to STL, still only known name.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 9, 2020
UPDATE 3: Unless Liberatore is broken, the Cardinals stole him:
The St. Louis Cardinals are trading OF Jose Martinez, OF Randy Arozarena and a Compensation A pick (after 1st round) to the Tampa Bay Rays for LHP prospect Matt Liberatore, a low-level catching prospect and Compensation B pick (post-2nd), sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 10, 2020
So, it’s two outfielders the Cardinals could easily part with (each of whom has big warts) and a swap of their free pick for a slightly lower free pick.