Cardinals get top pitching prospect in trade with Rays

ST. LOUIS, MO. – The St. Louis Cardinals announced a four-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday evening, acquiring top pitching prospect lefty Matthew Liberatore, minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez and the Rays Compensation B draft pick (66th overall), in exchange for outfielders Randy Arozarena, Josè Martínez and the Cardinals Compensation A draft pick (38th overall).

“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,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.

Liberatore, 20, was the Rays first-round draft pick in 2018 (16th player overall) out of Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., and is ranked as the no. 3 prospect in the Rays system.

The 6-5, 200-pound Liberatore has compiled an 8-4 mark with a 2.59 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) in the minors, striking out 113 batters in 111.0 innings pitched, allowing just two home runs to go along with a 1.22 WHIP and .224 opponent’s batting average. Liberatore was 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) for Bowling Green of the Midwest League (A) this past season.

Liberatore went 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 104 strikeouts as a senior at Mountain Ridge High School and was Arizona’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. He was named a first-team Rawlings/Perfect Game All-American, and helped lead Mountain Ridge to the Class 6A state championship game.   In 2017, Liberatore pitched 12 scoreless innings for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team and recorded the win in its gold medal game victory over Korea, and in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game he threw scoreless 9th, 10th and 11th innings for the American League to get the win and earn Most Valuable Player honors.

The Rays selected Liberatore higher than any other high school pitcher in club history, and he became the fourth high school pitcher selected by the Rays in the first round, following Jason Standridge (No. 31) in 1997, Taylor Guerrieri (No. 24) in 2011 and Blake Snell (No. 52) in 2011.

Rodriguez, 19, a right-handed hitting catcher from Valencia, Venezuela, was signed by the Rays as an international free agent in July of 2017.   The 6-0, 205-pound Rodriguez has produced a .338 batting average, six home runs and 40 RBI in his first two seasons as a professional.   He batted .330 with 6 HR’s and 34 RBI in 51 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, ranking among the Rays minor league leaders in batting (3rd), slugging (.492, 6th) and on-base pct. (.384, 9th). In limited action with the GCL Rays, he batted .400 in 2019.

Thursday’s trade reduces the Cardinals current 40-man Major League roster to 38 players.

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