This offseason has been, at least relative to the last couple of winters, a busy one on the free agent market. Most of the top names are off the board, and it seems like guys like Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna aren’t too far behind. The trade market, though, hasn’t been as active. There have been trades, but it’s been more talk than action. There was some action on Thursday, though, with the Rays trading prospect and 2018 first round pick Matthew Liberatore, a minor-league catcher and a compensation B pick to St. Louis for José Martínez, Randy Arozarena and a compensation A pick. The B pick is after the second round while the A pick is after the first.
This is an interesting deal. From the Rays perspective, they give up a high-quality pitching prospect who many thought would be drafted higher than his eventual 16th overall slot and has been ranked among the top 50 prospects in the game. In return, they move up about 30 spots in the draft, get a guy in Martínez who can hit and not field and a guy in Arozarena who could be up sooner than later and provides a ton of speed and versatility. St. Louis gets the high-upside arm for the cost of trading from depth and moving down in the draft. I think I like this trade more for St. Louis, but it’s probably safer from Tampa’s side considering the volatility of pitching prospects.
Sox Spin: Obviously, the Rays are going to be among the top competitors against the Red Sox this year and this makes them better in 2020. More than that, it makes them better against the Red Sox, as Martínez is a right-handed bat who kills lefties. The Red Sox have a bunch of those in their rotation.
Rays and Astros make a trade
The Liberatore/Martínez deal above was the bigger trade, but it wasn’t the only one the Rays made on Thursday. A couple hours after the first one, a smaller deal was announced with Tampa Bay receiving prospects Cal Stevenson and Peyton Battenfield in exchange for right-handed pitcher Austin Pruitt. The latter has served mostly as a long reliever for Tampa Bay in the past, often coming in as a follower or just a normal multi-inning reliever. He can make some starts, too, though he hasn’t really been the kind of guy who goes deep into games. Houston has a big hole in their rotation right now, so they’ll be hoping they can take him to the next level. The Rays get a couple of prospects — Stevenson they got from the Aaron Sanchez trade while Bennington was a ninth round pick this past year — by trading from a position of depth. They have guys like old friend Jalen Beeks and Anthony Banda as well as prospects like Brent Honeywell and Brendan McKay as legitimate rotation depth.
Sox Spin: This is a good trade for the Rays, I think — I’d be lying if I said I knew much of anything about the prospects involved, but Pruitt was an expendable piece — but it doesn’t make them better for 2020.
Pirates sign Guillermo Heredia
And the Pirates have handed out their first major-league deal of the winter, leaving the Cubs and Rockies as the only teams yet to do so. That contract — a one-year deal — goes to Guillermo Heredia and, well, he is not a big difference-maker. As things stand right now, he is clearly a bench piece for Pittsburgh. That could change if they trade Starling Marte, though.
Sox Spin: Heredia was mentioned in my post about possible minor-league signees with spring training invites. That is clearly no longer an option. I should also mention Logan Morrison signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers. Since I wrote that post originally — it was supposed to go up shortly before the sign-stealing thing broke and altered my schedule — these two have signed along with Jimmy Nelson and Héctor Rondón.