clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rays acquire starter Aaron Civale from Guardians for top prospect Kyle Manzardo

Desperate for another rotation arm ahead of the trade deadline, Tampa Bay has swung big, sending one of the team’s best prospects to Cleveland for Civale.

Aaron Civale of the Cleveland Guardians throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 30, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

With the losses mounting amid a brutal July and Zach Eflin added to the team’s laundry list of injured starters, the Tampa Bay Rays knew they’d need to add at least one rotation arm ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. And they decided to swing big to get it: According to Marc Topkin, the Rays have sent Kyle Manzardo — a consensus top-50 prospect in the sport — to the Cleveland Guardians in return for righty Aaron Civale.

Civale is enjoying a career year so far in 2023, with a 2.34 ERA and 3.55 FIP across 13 starts. He’s been even better in the month of July, with a 1.45 mark and six outings of at least six innings and one earned run or fewer. The righty doesn’t rack up a ton of strikeouts, but he uses a cutter/curveball combination to induce tons of weak contact (he’s in the 74th percentile in hard-hit rate and the 87th percentile in barrel rate). Even more appealing for the Rays, he isn’t a rental: The 28-year-old is set to enter arbitration for the first time next season and is under team control for 2024 and 2025.

With Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen and Josh Fleming already down and Eflin suffering a knee scare last week — though he’s expected to make his scheduled start on Tuesday — the Rays rotation was looking awfully thin. Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow are elite options, but Glasnow comes with plenty of injury risk himself, and top prospect Taj Bradley has been tantalizing but inconsistent in his first big-league season. Just 7-16 so far this month, Tampa knew they had to make a move, and Civale should be a much-needed shot in the arm that would also let the team avoid taxing its bullpen too much over the next two months. The Rays enter play on Monday at 64-44, three back of the Baltimore Orioles in the loss column in the AL East but in sole possession of the first AL Wild Card spot.

Getting a good, cost-controlled starter was always going to be costly, and the Guardians are getting among the best bats in all of the Minors in return. A second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Washington State, Manzardo soared up prospect lists over the past two years on the back of some truly monster offensive numbers: He slashed .327/.426/.617 with 22 homers in 93 games last year across High-A and Double-A. Those numbers have come back to Earth a bit this season in his first taste of Triple-A — he has a .783 OPS with 11 homers so far in Durham — but that’s more due to a fluky .269 BABIP than anything.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 37 overall prospect, Manzardo’s defensive future lies strictly at first base, so the bat is going to have to continue to propel him. It’s a very, very good bat though, with many scouts likening the lefty to promising Kansas City Royals youngster Vinnie Pasquantino due to his plus approach at the plate and his ability to hit the ball hard in the air consistently.

It may seem strange for a Cleveland team that’s just half a game out of first in its division to be flipping an established Major League talent for a prospect, but credit GM Mike Chernoff and Co. for realizing that this team wasn’t going anywhere without more firepower at the plate. The Guardians have been hamstrung by their offense for the past few years now, and they’ve developed an army of young starting pitchers that can take Civale’s place. Manzardo was blocked by Yandy Diaz and others in Tampa, but he can help Cleveland down the stretch — and for years to come.