This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Matthew Liberatore
Stats: 3-6, 22 G, 61.2 IP, 66 H, 5 HR, 25 BB, 46 K, 5.25 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 1.476 WHIP, -0.3 bWAR
Statcast: 8.5% barrel, 35.7% sweet spot, 113.2 max exit velocity, .341 wOBA, .369 xwOBA, 16.7% K, 9.1% BB
Every writeup of Liberatore is contractually obligated to mention Randy Arozarena, so let’s get that out of the way. Even without the emergence of the outfielder (one, it should be noted, somewhat fueled by the rest he got and the weight work he did during the pandemic), Liberatore’s story would be slightly disappointing by now. A top pitching prospect when acquired from the Rays in the winter of 2019, he has two partial seasons in the big leagues to show for his work so far and neither of them have been overwhelming to say the least.
That said, Liberatore is only 24 (his birthday just passed) and he has two partial seasons in the big leagues. There should still be a lot of optimism and hope for what he could become. You see that game against the Rays, eight scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, and you dream on him doing that on a more regular basis. Then he gives up five in 4.1 his next start and, while maybe it was mitigated by injury given that he went on the IL six days later, it’s still enough to bring you down from those clouds and wonder just what the club has here.
They seem to be wondering it as well. When he returned from injury in September, he moved into the bullpen to be a semi-long man. It was pretty effective–11.2 innings, 11 K, 4 BB, 1.54 ERA/3.51 FIP–enough so that the club seems to be planning for him to stay in that role for 2024. If you can get anything that helps the team, you take it of course, but it feels…small compared to the heights we often have placed on him. If the Cardinals do go out and get the three starters that they say they are getting, though, there’s not going to be a real good path for him to make it to the major league rotation, with all five spots spoken and a handful of starters jockeying for any temporary opening. So maybe getting good innings out of him in the bullpen is currently our best case scenario.
Of course, trading a regular outfielder for a guy that may only pitch 75-80 innings isn’t a great way to go through life.
What’s in store for 2024: It’s hard to believe that the Cardinals wouldn’t listen on Liberatore if someone called up, though (like many players on this roster) they’d be selling low if they moved him. If enough injuries happen we might see Liberatore get another crack at the rotation and he has one more option year so he could go to Memphis to stretch out if that was the need. Right now, though, it seems like he’ll add to the collection of lefties in the major league bullpen.