What the Rays and Guardians Got in the Aaron Civale-Kyle Manzardo Trade

Aaron Civale and Kyle Manzardo

Despite a deep rotation that includes Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, and Zach Eflin, the losses of Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs made arguably the Majors’ best rotation at the start of the season significantly thinner. The Tampa Bay Rays addressed a need for pitching on July 31, as right-hander Aaron Civale will head to the AL East in exchange for 1B Kyle Manzardo. Here’s a closer look at the deal.

Related: What the Angels and Rockies Got in the Randal Grichuk-C.J. Cron Trade

The Rays’ Return

The 2016 MLB Draft was a productive one for the Guardians, as the then-Indians picked up former AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in the fourth round. A round earlier, Cleveland snared Northeastern right-hander Aaron Civale.

Civale’s two primary weapons are his cut fastball and curveball. The former is a very good weapon against left-handers, but he’s used it more against righties this season and it’s worked. Opposing hitters have hit just .205 off it, and he’s mixed it with his sinker and four-seamer to induce not just ground balls, but pop ups. His 8.5% Pop-Up rate would put him in the top 30 of the Majors had he thrown enough innings to qualify.

With Civale, it’s all about movement and the ability to change speed and give hitters a bunch of different looks. He’s never been an elite strikeout pitcher, but his 6.8 K/9 would be the lowest of his MLB career should the season end today. On the other hand, his 2.34 ERA and 1.039 WHIP would be career-bests.

As far as playoff experience is concerned, Civale made just one appearance in the postseason as a member of the Guardians. It wasn’t a memorable one, as he started Game 5 of the 2022 ALDS but gave up three runs — all of which were off a Giancarlo Stanton home run — in 0.1 IP and took the loss in that game.

The Guardians’ Return

  • 1B Kyle Manzardo (.238/.342/.442 slash line, 11 home runs and 31 extra base hits over 73 games (313 PA) (AAA))

Cleveland picked up one of the Rays’ best prospects in Kyle Manzardo. A second-round pick by the Rays in the 2021 MLB Draft, Manzardo broke out last season. The 23-year-old hit .327/.426/.617 with 22 home runs and 49 extra base hits across two levels (A+ and AA), and did so in just 93 games.

This season, Manzardo’s numbers have not been as impressive. With Durham (AAA), Manzardo hit .238 with 11 home runs, but did own a 65:42 K:BB ratio over 73 games with the Bulls.

Manzardo projects to be at least a 20-25 home run hitter in the Majors, as he does have a lot of strength in his profile. Not to mention, the Rays reportedly worked with Manzardo to unlock more power in his profile, by way of improving his strength and agility (h/t MLB.com)

He’s also shown an incredibly keen eye at the plate and fantastic bat control, which could allow him to record high on-base percentages and bat for a good average at the MLB level. 

Manzardo now joins a Guardians farm system that includes several other high-end hitting prospects in George Valera and Brayan Rocchio, the latter of whom made his MLB debut this season. The 23-year-old is currently on the Minor League IL.

The Verdict

The Rays paid a hefty price for Civale, an arm that’s been a back-end starter for virtually all of his MLB career. But at that same token, it’s not easy to get pitching — particularly controllable pitching.

The fact that Tampa will hold Civale’s rights until the end of the 2025 campaign helps, as he can provide much-needed support for the Rays rotation this season and beyond. Given that the Rays will likely not have Rasmussen or Springs to start the 2024 campaign, that’s important.

The Guardians, meanwhile, get a bat that has the potential — with his plus power and ability to get on base — to be highly productive in Cleveland for years to come. Guardians president of baseball operations expressed after the trade was announced that he hopes Manzardo will be “hopefully” Cleveland’s first baseman in 2024.

As far as first baseman currently on the Guardians roster, Cleveland already has Josh Naylor and likely Josh Bell under contract for 2024. Naylor’s been one of the Guardians’ best bats this season, while Bell’s struggled in his first season in Cleveland. Bell has a $16.5M player option for 2024.