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Rays trade DH Jose Martinez to Cubs, promote Randy Arozarena

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The offseason Cardinal trade reaches its next form

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Rays have reportedly traded Designated Hitter Jose Martinez to the Chicago Cubs, shedding a roster spot needed to finally promote OF Randy Arozarena.

Both players were acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals last the off-season, a surprising deal that saw the Rays trade former first round draft choice LHP Matthew Liberatore and a low minors catcher, while pulling a pick swap that netted the Rays SS Alika Williams in the 2020 draft.

Martinez was an odd fit for the Rays roster, unable to defend well he was locked into the short side of a Designated Hitter platoon. In 76 plate appearances, Martinez disappointed with a mere 98 wRC+ and two homeruns. Facing left-handed pitchers, he hit .229/.289/.429 (8-for-35) with one home run this season, compared to .331/.405/.570 (87-for-263) with 15 home runs from 2016-19 with St. Louis.

The success of the St. Louis trade ultimately hinges on what Arozarena brings to the Rays, but the return for Martinez — two Players To Be Named Later or cash considerations — add an interesting wrinkle to that eventual assessment.

Randy Arozarena had a slow start to the season due to COVID delays, but will finally join the Rays for the September playoff push, looking for playing time in a crowded outfield.

After his acquisition, we projected Arozarena for a left field role and ranked him the 8th best prospect in the Rays system — higher than current LF Yoshi Tsutsugo — calling it a “win-now” move:

Arozarena hit .344/.431/.571 in 399 MiLB plate appearances split between AA and AAA in 2019. He made his MLB debut in August and received another call up in September. He totaled 23 MLB plate appearances, but put up impressive exit velocities in the small sample with four balls at 100+ mph.

Arozarena is the right handed outfield bat the Rays needed to pick up to fill the only hole that couldn’t be filled from within at this time. He can play center field when needed with a 29.4 ft/sec sprint speed that would have tied Kevin Kiermaier for the team lead last year.

Much like the player the Rays will look for him to replace in the near future, Tommy Pham, Arozarena hits the ball hard, runs well even if it comes with over aggressiveness at time, and succeeds even when he doesn’t get the ball in the air enough to take full advantage of all the natural power that exists.

Arozarena likely was scheduled to start the season in Durham (AAA) especially after the late addition of Manny Margot. Even without starting in the majors he should still likely impact the 2020 Rays.

As of publishing, the Rays outfield layout is as follows:

RHH OF:

  • LF Randy Arozarena
  • CF Manuel Margot
  • RF Hunter Renfroe

LHH OF:

  • LF Austin Meadows
  • LF Yoshi Tsutsugo
  • CF Kevin Kiermaier
  • CF Brett Phillips

Also available in the outfield mix are left handed hitters 1B Brian O’Grady and 2B Brandon Lowe. More trades could be incoming over the next day, so be on the look out for more roster moves.