The St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays pulled off the first big trade of the decade, with four players and two draft picks changing hands.
Only two of the four players dealt have big league experience, and only one of them, Jose Martinez, is a non-prospect, meaning this trade has a much bigger impact on dynasty fantasy baseball owners than those in redraft leagues.
I’m going to analyze the three prospects who were moved and discuss what this trade does for their future value in dynasty formats, and if it will have an impact on their 2020 value as well.
LHP Matthew Liberatore (TB to STL)
Matthew Liberatore is without a doubt the highest-profile prospect in the trade, with his involvement in the deal getting reported hours before a single other name was known.
It’s also not hard to see why, as the big left-hander is plastered all over top-1oo prospect lists, coming in as high as No. 31 on Baseball America’s most recent list.
In 111 professional innings since getting drafted 16th overall in 2018, Liberatore has a 2.59 ERA and a 113/44 K/BB ratio, with most of his work coming last year in Single-A.
Liberatore is a bulky left-hander who projects as a quality mid-rotation piece. He has earned excellent marks for his fastball and curveball, which has significant bite to it, and his slider and curveball both earned 55 grades from MLB Pipeline—with many scouts believing he will have three 60-grade pitches when all is said and done.
A look at his tape shows just how filthy the breaking ball can be, and the late life he gets on his Jonah Hill fastball (mid-90s) makes him easily projectable.
For fantasy purposes, Liberatore is still a few years away from reaching the big leagues. However, dynasty owners will want to take notice, if they have not already. Tampa Bay is obviously a dream destination for pitching prospects, but St. Louis isn’t far behind development-wise, so this is arguably a lateral move. The Cardinals were stacked with hitting prospects and really light on top-tier pitching, so this helps them replenish a future area of need while trading from depth.
Value Liberatore among the top 75 dynasty assets, as you had previously, and keep an eye on the left-hander who is hoping to top the 100 inning mark for the first time in 2020.
Randy Arozarena (STL to TB)
Liberatore is the most notable prospect in the trade, but I’m most intrigued by Randy Arozarena. The 24-year-old outfielder made his big league debut last year, hitting .300/.391/.500 with a dinger and two steals in 23 plate appearances.
That was off the heels of an exceptionally strong season at Triple-A, where he slashed an incredible .358/.435/.593 with 12 home runs and nine steals in just 293 plate appearances.
The Cuban outfielder was among the top international prospects in the 2016 class, and his recent improvements in plate discipline (17.1% strikeout rate between Triple-A/MLB last year) and his increased quality of contact (more fly balls and a more diverse spray chart) helped lead to the breakout campaign.
His contact rate has always been good, and while the power is still developing, it does look like his home run potential will be limited to his pull side, barring a significant amount of added strength. Check out the video of his first, and to date only, big league home run:
Not to discredit the hit, which was a blast, but Arozarena put a lot into that swing on a bad pitch in a homer-friendly park and barely left the yard down the line. Fifteen to 20 home runs may be realistic if he adds some muscle and Rob Manfred allows the juiced ball to stick around, but 10-15 might be a more realistic annual projection.
Arozarena does have plenty of speed to burn, although his aggressiveness on the basepaths has gotten him in trouble—as his 19 steals and 13 caught stealings from last year demonstrate.
Tampa Bay is never a bad spot for an outfielder to land, although it’s unclear what his role will be right away. He could be an eventual replacement for Kevin Kiermaier in center field, which would give him immense dynasty value, but for now he’s probably a fourth outfielder/Triple-A fodder for the 2020 season.
I’d give him a slight boost in dynasty formats, just because his new team is in a hitter-friendly environment and Tampa has a history of aggressiveness on the bases.
He should be slotted somewhere among the top 150 prospect-eligible dynasty assets in the game.
Edgardo Rodriguez (TB to STL)
Edgardo Rodriguez is the final prospect to change hands, going from Tampa to St. Louis. A 19-year-0ld catcher with only 244 minor league plate appearances, Rodriguez was signed out of Venezuela in the 17-18 international signing period.
He’s looked very solid, slashing .338/.389/.495 across the DSL and the Gulf Coast League—although he missed nearly all of the 2019 season (just 10 games) with injuries.
Prior to the 2019 campaign, FanGraphs ranked Rodriguez as the 53rd-best prospect in Tampa’s system, noting that he is an excellent hitter but his ability to remain behind the plate remains murky, at best. So he’s probably not the next Yadier Molina, but the bat is intriguing enough that it’s easy to see why the Cardinals would take a shot on him in a return.
For now, Rodriguez shouldn’t be on the dynasty radar outside extraordinarily deep leagues, but at just 19 it seems entirely possible that he could develop into a big league-caliber hitter—regardless of where he plays in the field.
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)