Rays trade Jose Martinez to Cubs, bring up Randy Arozarena

Notebook | The return for the right-handed-hitting DH is two players to be named who were not in the Cubs’ 60-man player pool.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jose Martinez (40) swings a home run during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Saturday, August 8, 2020.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jose Martinez (40) swings a home run during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Saturday, August 8, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 30, 2020|Updated Aug. 30, 2020

The Rays traded designated hitter Jose Martinez to the Cubs on Sunday for two players to be named, and they called up outfielder Randy Arozarena.

Word of the moves came less than 90 minutes before Tampa Bay’s game in Miami.

Martinez, acquired during the offseason from St. Louis with Arozarena, had been a so-so contributor, the right-handed-hitter batting .239 with two homers, 10 RBIs and a .717 OPS. But he was somewhat of a defensive liability at first base, limiting the Rays’ flexibility for making in-game moves. With right-handed-hitting Mike Brosseau and Yandy Diaz able to play first, Martinez’s role is easily covered.

Related: Rays report: Blake Snell on mound with sweep in sight

Arozarena, who head to Miami as the trade was announced, missed the three-week Spring 2.0 camp after testing positive for COVID-19, but he has been working out the past several weeks in Port Charlotte. The Rays want to give him an opportunity in what will be a crowded outfield.

On Thursday, the Rays acquired Brett Phillips from the Royals and currently have an outfield group that includes Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe and Yoshi Tsutsugo. Plus they have used Brandon Lowe and Brosseau on occasion in the outfield.

Brian O’Grady, activated Saturday off the taxi squad, started Sunday in leftfield, though his stay could be short.

“Appreciative of everything Jose did, the quality of play, the leadership, the teammate that he was, and the trade seems to present him with a little bit better of an opportunity,” manager Kevin Cash said.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s a little bit of a better lane to get some guys that we’re really excited about some reps.”

The players coming to the Rays have not been identified because they are not in the Cubs’ 60-man player pool, though they are said to have been a big part of the deal.

Morton set to return against Yankees

The Rays rotation is expected to get a boost during the team’s next series, as right-hander Charlie Morton is expected to return from the injured list either Tuesday or Wednesday against the Yankees.

Morton, on the IL with a right-shoulder injury, threw a successful bullpen session before Sunday’s game, and Cash said he expected to discuss the possibility of starting the veteran during the Yankees series.

Cash left the door open for Morton possibly returning after Thursday’s off-day, saying some deep outings from his starters have allowed the bullpen to be fresh.

“You have some flexibility with the way our starters have thrown as of late,” Cash said. “We weren’t in this position to make decisions like this maybe a week to 10 days ago. … This nice little run has really helped.”

It’s unclear how many innings Morton would be able to go in his first start back.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Strong debut for O’Grady

One day after he joined the active roster, O’Grady made an impactful Rays debut, starting in leftfield and going 2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and a stolen base.

O’Grady showed patience at the plate, seeing 29 pitches in five at-bats. He worked the count full before hitting a double in the fifth, then scored on Hunter Renfroe’s double.

“Brian O’Grady had a lot of really, really good at-bats,” Cash said.

O’Grady had a strong spring training, posting a 1.139 OPS with five extra-base hits in 14 games before the pandemic shut things down. He continued to impress while training at the team’s alternate site.