Cleveland Guardians: The Aaron Civale trade looks better by the day

With Kyle Manzardo raking in the Arizona Fall League, the Aaron Civale trade looks like a winner for the Cleveland Guardians.

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Though I just can't seem to let go of the Guardians trading away guys like Nolan Jones, Will Benson, and Junior Caminero over the past few seasons, the Aaron Civale trade is beginning to heal those wounds.

Civale, of course, was traded this past summer to the depleted Tampa Bay Rays, desperately in need of starting pitching depth as they made a run to the postseason. Luckily for Cleveland, Civale was in the midst of a career year, with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts.

How Did Aaron Civale Pitch in Tampa Bay?

The Guardians turned around and dealt Civale - who isn't a free agent until 2026 - to the Rays for first base prospect Kyle Manzardo, who just so happens to be tearing up the Arizona Fall League alongside other top Cleveland prospect Chase DeLauter.

Civale's ten starts with Tampa Bay down the stretch were a mixed bag. Though he had a 3.63 FIP with the Rays - similar to his 3.53 FIP in Cleveland - Civale posted a 5.36 ERA. He never gave up more than three runs in five August starts, but faltered down the stretch in September, stumbling towards the finish line with a 7.65 ERA (and 4.86 FIP), giving up 17 runs and five homers in five starts.

For the season between Cleveland and Tampa Bay, the 28-year-old had a 3.71 xERA, which was the best mark over the past four years. But when you put it all together, Civale's season didn't look mind-blowingly different from his other recent seasons.

Still, there is no doubt that Civale is a valuable rotational piece for any team. But the Guardians were smart to capitalize on his stellar 2023 campaign to replenish the top of the prospect funnel, which was honestly beginning to look pretty bare no matter what anyone tries to still tell you about a guy like George Valera.

With the emergence of rookie starters Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, and Logan Allen - plus the continued presence of at least Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber if he isn't dealt himself - it was kind of a no-brainer to trade Civale. Especially since Tampa Bay was willing to deal away Manzardo, a top 100 prospect.

In the Arizona Fall League, Manzardo has been showing why he earned that ranking and what made him a second-round pick in 2021. In 56 plate appearances over 12 AFL games, Manzardo is hitting .245/.339/.633 with five home runs, four doubles, and 13 RBI. It's incredible that a prospect like this essentially just fell into Cleveland's lap, and Manzardo could very well be a catalyst in a quick turnaround for the Guardians offense next season.

All it took was Aaron Civale and a willingness to deal from that immense pitching depth within the organization. You can't win every trade, but Cleveland's lost a few big ones in the past couple years. This deal, however, could go a long way to helping the Guardians get back in the win column.