A review of the St. Louis Cardinals trade that sent Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays

With the Tampa Bay Rays hosting the St. Louis Cardinals this week, here’s a timely review of the Randy Arozarena trade.

The Tampa Bay Rays are hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game set Tuesday through Thursday this week. It’s also a convergence of his pro baseball life for Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, who was signed by the Cardinals in 2016. At 21 years old then, Arozarena had defected from Cuba and settled in Mexico before the Cardinals gave him an opportunity.

Via Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times this week, Arozarena expressed gratitude toward the Cardinals but is also glad to have landed with the Rays.

(The Cardinals) gave me my first steps into professional baseball,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “They gave me the first opportunity to make my major-league debut with them. I’m very happy about that.”

It was a good opportunity for me to be here. I’ve done well. The last three years have been great for me. And I’m very happy about it.”

Arozarena went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Tuesday night, and he’s on track for a third straight 20-20 season (18 home runs, 12 stolen bases) with a .791 OPS (121 OPS+) and a 2.3 bWAR. The Cardinals could certainly use a player like him, in the midst of a disappointing season.

Reviewing the Randy Arozarena trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Tampa Bay Rays

On January 9, 2020, the Cardinals sent Arozarena and veteran first baseman Jose Martinez to the Rays for top left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore and minor league catcher Edgardo Rodriguez. A swap of supplemental 2020 draft picks was also in the deal. Martinez was traded by the Rays to the Chicago Cubs during the truncated 2020 season, and Rodriguez has not advanced past Rookie ball.

So the headliners of the deal are clearly Arozarena and Liberatore.

Over 426 games with the Rays (entering Wednesday), Arozarena has 65 home runs, 235 RBI, 68 stolen bases and an .802 OPS (25 home runs, 89 RBI and 26 stolen bases per-162 games). He won AL Rookie of the Year in 2021, won ALCS MVP in 2020 (1.152 OPS, four home runs) and started this year’s All-Star Game.

Liberatore, the 16th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Rays, made his MLB debut last year. Over nine appearances for the Cardinals last season (seven starts, 35 total innings), he posted a 5.97 ERA with a 7.3 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9. He has spent time in Triple-A again this year, with a 6.93 ERA over 10 appearances (nine starts) for the Cardinals thus far. He is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale against the Rays.

Liberatore is still only 23 years old, with his 20th Major League outing coming Thursday night. So there’s still time for him to become a viable big league pitcher, and the Cardinals seem ready to let him gain some experience as a lost season for them winds down.

But right now, and it’s on track to stay that way, the Rays were the clear winners of the deal as the potential they apparently saw in Arozarena has come to fruition.