The rumor is floating out there that Cleveland Guardians pitcher Aaron Civale could be a potential trade target for other teams, considering how Shane Bieber is no longer on the market given his right elbow injury.
Civale, 28, makes some sense as a trade candidate, given his 2.71 ERA in 11 starts this season, bolstered by a solid 3.71 FIP and 3.69 xERA that translates to a very nice 153 ERA+. The fact that Civale would be under any team's control until 2026 only enhances his trade value, even in spite of the fact that Civale spends quite a bit of time on the injured list in any given season; he's never made more than 21 starts in a year.
So why exactly would the Guardians trade Civale? With the injuries to Bieber and Triston McKenzie, Cleveland is relying on a trio of rookies in Logan Allen, Tanner Bibee, and Gavin Williams to keep them in the AL Central race. Civale, currently healthy, is having having the best season of his career, providing much-needed depth at a position on shaky ground, no matter how impressive these rookie starters have been to this point.
But starting pitching is a golden commodity in baseball, and there will always be contending teams that need it. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, for example, are in the thick of their playoff races, but each could stand to improve the depth of their rotations. A guy like Aaron Civale would help either of those young teams solidify themselves down the stretch run and into the postseason.
What Could the Guardians Get in an Aaron Civale Trade?
With the way Civale is pitching this year (not to mention having a very respectable 3.87 ERA in 74 career starts), it stands to reason Cleveland should capitalize now and get the highest possble return for him in a trade. But who could they realistically acquire?
If we're talking about the Orioles, they've got depth in their outfield in the form of established major leaguers and upcoming top prospects. Would a package of Civale, Amed Rosario, and, say, Joey Cantillo (now in Columbus and realistically the team's top pitching prospect with Williams up in the majors) be enough to net them Heston Kjerstad, Baltimore's first-round pick (and second overall) from the 2020 draft? The 24-year-old Kjerstad is knocking on the door to the majors, hitting .339/.422/.583 with five home runs, nine doubles, and 16 RBI in 137 plate appearances with Triple-A Norfolk. It's not a move that drastically improves the Guardians this season, but if Kjerstad pans out, it solidifies Cleveland's outfield for years to come.
On the other hand, the Reds are bursting at the seams with assets already at the major-league level, and it's getting hard to balance all the playing time. Civale and Cantillo could again net Cleveland one of Cincinnati's young offensive stars. A guy like Spencer Steer (if you could convince him to move to right field) or Jonathan India (if you were to trade Rosario and move Andrés Giménez to shortstop where he belongs) would look great in a Cleveland uniform.
So there is certainly value there in a potential Civale deal. It does seem unlikely given the current shaky constitution of the Guardians' pitching staff, even thinking ahead to the futures of both Bieber and McKenzie. At this point, how much can the team rely on them?
Would it perhaps make more sense to unload more prospects from deeper in the system? If I were to put my GM hat on, that's where I'd try to make a deal. The Guardians - this year and beyond - can easily contend for the AL Central; the less they have to weaken the major-league team in a trade, the better.
But, ultimately, the thought of what the Guardians could get in a package that includes Civale - again, with his trade value perhaps never being higher than this - might just be too enticing to pass up at this year's trade deadline.