It looked like the trade deadline would pass with a whimper and not a bang for the Tampa Bay Rays, yet, on Monday, they finally pulled the trigger on a deal, trading top first base prospect Kyle Manzardo to Cleveland for 28-year-old right-hander Aaron Civale.
The Rays were in need of rotation help with Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen hitting the Injured List due to season-ending injuries. They previously had an interest in Jordan Montgomery, Lance Lynn, and Marcus Stroman before those deals were spoiled for one reason or another.
Civale will step into the rotation alongside Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin, and Zach Littell (presumably), and give them a strong five-man rotation moving forward. The right-hander currently leads the American League with a minuscule 2.34 ERA — which is belied by a solid 3.55 FIP — across 77 innings on the season. While Civale’s below-average 19% strikeout rate, rather lucky .242 BABIP, and huge 82.7% strand rate point to some regression, he’s nonetheless a solid big-league hurler.
In 433 career innings, Civale touts a 3.77 ERA and 4.05 FIP, with a 3.46% K/BB, and 42.4% ground-ball rate. He doesn’t throw hard, averaging just 91.8 mph on his heater, but Civale boasts excellent command, limits hard contact, and posted enough swinging strikes with his versatile repertoire (cutter, curveball, sinker, and fourseamer) to find success. He leans on his 88 mph cutter as his primary fastball, although also has the above-mentioned four-seamer and a 92 mph sinker.
Rounding out his repertoire is a 78 mph curveball that has been graded as an excellent offering, with opponents batting just .182 BA/.215 OBP/.299 SLG/.514 OPS in the 358 times he has finished off a plate appearance with the pitch (including a .186 BA/.205 OBP/.302 SLG/.507 OPS this season). 36.3% of those plate appearances have resulted in a strikeout. Civale will throw the occasional 83 mph slider and 85 mph changeup as well, although the curveball is his most frequent breaking pitch.
Civale is not without his own red flags. He has never topped the 164.2 inning mark he hit in 2017 in the minors — his first full season as a professional ball player. Since that time, he’s been on the IL with a myriad of maladies, including a lat strain, shoulder tightness, a wrist sprain, a finger sprain, forearm inflammation, and an oblique strain. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that he’s a quality performer when he’s healthy.
In an additional move, Tampa Bay recalled RHP Ryan Thompson from Triple-A Durham and optioned RHP Taj Bradley to Durham. Per Tricia Whitaker (Bally Sports Sun) the plan is for Civale to pitch on Saturday. Rays skipper Kevin Cash mentioned that Bradley handled the news well, and they hope he can work on some things while at Durham in the hope that he will be back up with the big-league squad at some point.