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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals have made a deal to acquire one of the top pitching prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, in exchange for a package that includes outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and was officially announced Thursday night in a news release from the Cardinals.

On Thursday afternoon, Passan reported that the Rays were sending Matt Liberatore, a lefthanded pitcher ranked as one of the top five prospects in Tampa’s organization, to the Cardinals, with the possibility that St. Louis would send a package including Major League players, and from the team’s depth of outfielders. In addition to Martinez and Arozarena, the Cardinals are sending a draft pick to Tampa in exchange for Liberatore, a catching prospect and a draft pick.

Martinez was ultimately a player best-suited for the American League, where he’ll have the ability to be a Designated Hitter on a more regular basis. Arozarena starred in the minor leagues in 2019 and earned a late-season promotion to St. Louis where he was included on the postseason roster.

“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,” Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said in Thursday’s news release.

The reported trade set off immediate speculation in baseball circles that it could serve as a possible precursor to more roster moves for the Cardinals.

The team reportedly remains involved in discussions with free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who has said he would be interested in returning to St. Louis.

Liberatore instantly becomes one of the Cardinals’ top pitching prospects, and he could also be an important cog in any trade proposal to acquire third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.