Thursday, January 9, 2020

MLB Trade Review: Rays acquire Martinez

From Bleacher Report


          The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired OF Jose Martinez, OF Randy Arozarena and a competitive balance A draft pick from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for LHP Matthew Liberatore, C Edgardo Rodriguez and a competitive balance B draft pick.

           The trade can be a lot to unpack at first sight, especially with the draft picks. But the main roster player involved is Martinez. He can play the corner outfield spots as well as first base, and has always hit well. However, there was never a spot for him in the Cardinals outfield or at first base, and without the use of a designated hitter in the National League, he was used as a backup and pinch hitter. He has some power, but he has never hit 20 home runs in a season in his career. However, he is a terrible defender, with a career DRS of -28. That could be why he was such a late bloomer, playing in the White Sox, Braves and Royals organization before making his debut with the Cardinals in 2016. His main appeal is his ability to crush left handed pitching. In 2019, he hit .329 with five home runs and a .997 OPS in 78 Plate Appearances against southpaws. In his career, he has a .331 batting average, a .976 OPS and 15 home runs in 298 Plate Appearances. Overall, he has not struggled against righties, with a .288 batting average, but that was hurt dramatically in 2019, when he hit just .254 with a .685 OPS. His struggles against right handed pitching, his defense, his lack of a position on the team, his price going up and his age (31) all factored into making this trade for the Cardinals. The Rays could use a guy like Martinez, almost like a replacement to Tommy Pham, who was traded earlier this offseason to the Padres in a big deal that netted the Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe and more. Martinez, like Pham, hits for average and has some power. However, the Rays will lack on the defensive side (which Renfroe brings).
             Arozarena is MLB ready, and could make the Rays to start the 2020 season, although it is unlikely. He made his MLB debut in 2019, appearing in just 19 games, and getting just 23 Plate Appearances. Arozarena had a really good minor league season, playing in AA and AAA, finishing with a combined OPS over 1.000. MLB Pipeline now ranks Arozarena as the 12th best prospect in a stacked Rays system. Also, the Rays move up roughly 30 draft spots in the next draft.
             They give up a top prospect in Liberatore, who MLB Pipeline ranks as the 41st best prospect in all of baseball, and the third best in the Cardinals system, behind Nolan Gorman (38th overall), who is good friends with Liberatore, as they were both 2018 first round draft picks from Arizona (different high schools). Even after parting with Liberatore, the Rays still have a great farm system, which includes the top prospect in the MLB, Wander Franco. The 12th best prospect, Brendan McKay, made his MLB debut in 2019, starting 11 games, and the Rays also have shortstop Vidal Brujan (39) ranking above Liberatore. This deal marks the second top 50 prospect in the MLB that the Rays have traded since the trade deadline, when Jesus Sanchez, then ranked the 42nd best prospect in the big leagues (he has since fallen to number 51), was dealt with flame-throwing opener Ryne Stanek to the Marlins for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards.
              Rodriguez is a wild card in this trade. A 19 year old from Venezuela, he signed an amateur deal with the Rays in July of 2017. He has not played past the rookie league, and appeared in just 10 games in 2019.

              Martinez, 31, had a .269 batting average with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .751 OPS in 373 Plate Appearances in 2019. In his MLB career, all in St. Louis, Martinez has a .298 batting average with 41 home runs, 172 RBIs and a .821 OPS in 1288 Plate Appearances.

             Arozarena, who will be 25 on Opening Day, went 6-for-20 (.300 batting average) with one home run, two RBIs and two stolen bases in his short stint with the Cardinals last season. For AA Springfield and AAA Memphis, Arozarena had a .344 batting average with 15 home runs, 53 RBIs,  17 stolen bases and a 1.003 OPS in 399 Plate Appearances.

              Liberatore, 20, pitched for Single-A Bowling Green in 2019, and finished with a 3.10 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 78.1 innings. In his minor league career the former 16th overall pick has a 2.59 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 111 innings.

             Rodriguez, 19, went 10-for-25 (.400 batting average) with no home runs and six RBIs for the rookie league Rays in 2019. In his two year minor league career Rodriguez has a .338 batting average with six home runs, 40 RBIs and a .885 OPS in 244 Plate Appearances.

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