Rays Trade Aaron Civale to Brewers

The Rays have traded starting pitcher Aaron Civale to the Brewers in the first surprising deal of the summer.

Aaron Civale #34 of the Tampa Bay Rays is relieved by manager Kevin Cash.
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - MAY 08: Aaron Civale #34 of the Tampa Bay Rays is relieved by manager Kevin Cash #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field on May 08, 2024 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers kicked off trade season a little early this year. The two sides agreed to a deal that will send starting pitcher Aaron Civale to the Brewers. In exchange, 20-year-old infield prospect Gregory Barrios is headed to Tampa Bay.

Civale is a six-year MLB veteran with a career 4.10 ERA in 103 starts. Barrios, primarily a shortstop, was the No. 21 prospect in the Brewers organization, according to MLB Pipeline.

The Rays acquired Civale just ahead of the 2023 trade deadline, sending first base prospect Kyle Manzardo to the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for the right-hander. Manzardo currently ranks as the No. 2 prospect in the Guardians’ system.

Tampa Bay desperately needed starting pitching last summer. Sitting at 64-44 (.593) on July 31, a postseason berth was all but guaranteed.

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Still, the Rays were in a tight race with the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. They had already lost starters Shane Baz, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen, and ace Shane McClanahan did not look sharp after returning from the injured list two weeks prior. He would head back to the IL with a UCL injury days later.

Thus, the Rays traded for Civale to bolster their rotation for the stretch run and the playoffs. The righty made 10 starts for Tampa Bay in August and September. However, he did not get the chance to pitch in the postseason; he was slated to pitch Game 3 of the AL Wild Card Series, but eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers swept the Rays in two games.

Why the Rays Traded Aaron Civale

One year down the road, and the Rays aren’t nearly as desperate for starting pitching.

Zach Eflin, Zack Littell, Taj Bradley, and Ryan Pepiot have all been healthy and effective this season. Moreover, Baz has looked healthy at Triple-A, and Springs has been ramping up his rehab as he nears a return. Rasmussen is more of a wild card, but he, too, could come back toward the end of the season to provide the rotation with another boost.

Civale was an absolute necessity for the Rays last July, but this year, he looked like the perfect Rays trade piece. Next season will be his final year of arbitration, and he will surely earn a sizeable raise. Rarely does Tampa Bay let a player reach his final arbitration year.

What’s more, the Rays are on the outside looking in on the AL postseason race. Currently sitting three games back, they could absolutely still make a run at the Wild Card. Yet, if they do, there’s a good chance it will be thanks to a resurgent return from Springs (and possibly Baz and Rasmusen).

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Civale is a reliable, mid-rotation arm, but Springs (2.53 ERA in 196.0 IP with the Rays from 2021-23) is the kind of hurler this team needs to go on a big run and get back in the race.

In other words, Civale was expendable. Or, at least, expendable in Tampa Bay.

To that point, this trade does not necessarily signify that the Rays will be sellers ahead of the deadline. This team has never shied away from dealing veterans, no matter how competitive they are, and losing Civale does not hurt the Rays nearly as much as it will help the Brewers.

Why the Brewers Needed Aaron Civale

The 2024 Brewers were even more desperate for pitching than the 2023 Rays.

After losing Brandon Woodruff to shoulder surgery last fall and trading away Corbin Burnes over the winter, the Brewers’ rotation was not particularly strong to begin with. However, they have lost an entire rotation’s worth of arms to the IL since the season began, and they are relying on unsustainable performances from inexperienced arms Tobias Myers and Bryse Wilson to stay afloat.

Milwaukee added veteran Dallas Keuchel as a band-aid move last week, but an arm like Civale – proven, reliable, and under 30 – will make a much bigger difference.

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The Brewers are sitting pretty with a sizeable lead in the NL Central. With Civale in the fold, their lead is that much safer.

In addition, Civale gives the Brewers another pitcher they can count on to start in October. They may have become the favorites in the NL Central, but they will be underdogs once again in the postseason if they face opponents like the Phillies, Dodgers, or Braves. Civale will give Milwaukee a fighting chance against any of the three best rotations in the National League.