The Tampa Bay and St. Louis completed a four-player trade on Thursday, with the Rays acquiring first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter José Martínez, outfielder Randy Arozarena, and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance Round A draft pick in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, lower level catching prospect Edgardo Rodriguez, and the Rays’ pick in Competitive Balance Round B draft pick. The Rays had been searching for outfield depth, not to mention right-handed hitting, and they filled those needs with Martínez and Arozarena.
Tampa Bay had been interested in Martínez, 31, for quite a while now. Granted he does come with longstanding defensive concerns — he recorded -9 Outs Above Average (OAA) in rightfield last season according to StatCast — yet he has the makings of an ideal DH candidate. The right-handed hitting Martínez will join the southpaw hitting Nate Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, and the recently-signed Yoshitomo Tsutsugo in the first base/DH mix.
Martínez boasts a career .298 OPS/.363 OBP/.458 SLG/.821 OPS slash line with a 122 wRC+. He, however, is coming off a career-worst .269 BA/.340 OBP/.410 SLG/.750 OPS campaign with a 101 wRC+ across 373 plate appearances — just 1% better than the league average. Yet, Steamer projects a bounceback season for the right-handed hitter in 2020, closer to his career line, with the projection system expecting a .280 BA/.346 OBP/.440 SLG/.786 OPS over 243 plate appearances, and a modest 108 wRC+.
It fails to be seen how the Rays will adjust the lineup to include Martínez, although his primary role seems fairly cut and dry: he will likely be called upon to face left-handed pitching. He has slashed a beastly .331 BA/.405 OBP/.570 SLG/1.175 OPS line with 15 homers over 298 career plate appearances against southpaws.
Another reason the Rays targeted Martínez: he is known to hit the ball on the screws, owning an impressive career-average exit velocity of 90.0 mph.
With fielding no longer a concern, the Rays are hoping that Martinez can concentrate fully on being a productive force at the plate.
Arozarena looks to take over the platoon role vacated by Guillermo Heredia. He enters having collected some strong hitting numbers in Cuba, the minor leagues, and in his brief 19-game/23-plate appearance cameo with St. Louis last season (and three more plate appearances in the National League Division Series).
A 2016 international signing, Arozarena has accrued an impressive .292 BA/.377 OBP/.477 SLG/.855 OPS line across 1302 minor league plate appearances, with 38 home runs.
Dominik Vega (DRaysBay) took a look at Arozarena following news of the trade, writing:
Arozarena’s MLB exit velocity in 2019 averaged 90.7 mph, but with only 16 batted balls, that number should not be taken at face value. Instead, his 15 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019 should do the talking. While not known as a prospect with power, Arozarena has shown the ability to hit line drives and stretch them into extra-base-hits while in the minors.
When he does hit the ball in the air, Arozarena has shown some sneaky raw power to his pull side, and he hit all 12 of his home runs to left field in 2018.MLB Pipeline
Since 2017, Arozarena has a career OPS of 1.004 against lefties in the minors, spanning over 300 PAs. The Cardinals’ outfield is full of young players and finding Arozarena time was going to be difficult for them in 2020, making him expendable.
A strong spring put Arozarena in mind with the big league staff, and the team has long viewed him as a fourth or fifth outfielder in the majors. Now they’re seeing even more.Derrick Goold, BaseballAmerica
Even with concerns about Arozarena’s aggressiveness at the plate and on the base paths, he has the ability to make swift adjustments in the box which clearly has shown to bear fruit at every level. His plate approach, paired with an elite 29.4 feet per second speed, makes him an apt centerfield option on days when Kevin Kiermaier needs some time off his feet.
— With the arbitration deadline looming at 1:00 PM Friday afternoon, Jeff Passan (ESPN) announced a $2,185,200 agreement between RHP Chaz Roe and the team. That is in line with MLB Trade Rumors projected salary of $2.2-Million. 2020 marks the penultimate arbitration-eligible season for Roe.
The Rays have until the deadline to terms with four other players (projected salaries are in parentheses):
Oliver Drake ($1.1-Million)
Tyler Glasnow ($1.9-Million)
Hunter Renfroe ($3.4-Million)
Daniel Robertson ($1.1-Million)