In a trade with the Guardians, the Rays got RHP Aaron Civale.

Rays acquire RHP Aaron Civale from Guardians for prospect ManzardoCleveland Guardians’ Aaron Civale pitches to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Cleveland. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

In a rare trade between two teams with a chance to make the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Rays got right-handed pitcher Aaron Civale from the Guardians on Monday. This improved their injury-plagued starting rotation, while Cleveland got hard-hitting first-base prospect Kyle Manzardo.

Since he came back from a strained oblique in early June, Civale has done very well. In 10 of his 11 starts, he has given up two runs or less. This season, he is 5-2 and has a 2.34 ERA. He has struck out 58 batters, walked 22, and only given up five home runs.

Civale is still under the team’s control until the end of the 2025 season. Because of this, the Rays were willing to give up 23-year-old Manzardo, who they picked up in the second round of the 2021 draft and has moved quickly through their system. Even though Manzardo’s numbers aren’t as good this year as last, he is still hitting. He hit 238/.342/.442 and 11 home runs in Triple-A, so scouts think he will be a good hitter in the big leagues.

In the short term, Josh Naylor, the team’s second-best hitter behind Jose Ramirez, and Josh Bell, Cleveland’s big free agent signing who mostly plays DH, are in his way. Cleveland looked to the future with the trade, even though it was only a half-game behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central with a 53-53 record.

“Tough trade to make,” said Chris Antonetti, the president of baseball operations for the Guardians. “But we thought it was a unique chance to get someone like Kyle. We knew it would be costly.”

The Rays started the season 13-0, but they are now in second place in the AL East, behind Baltimore. They have been looking for pitching help for a rotation that lost stars Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen to injuries that ended their seasons. The Rays got good news this week when Zach Eflin didn’t have to go on the injured list because of pain in his left knee. With Shane McClanahan as their ace, Tyler Glasnow looking like a frontline starter, Eflin, and Civale, Tampa Bay would have arguably the best rotation of any AL playoff team with these five pitchers.

Civale is expected to join the Rays on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and play his first game for Tampa Bay against Detroit on Saturday. He will take the spot in the rotation of rookie Taj Bradley (5-7, 5.67 ERA).

Bradley was sent to Triple-A Durham on Monday, and the Rays called up right-handed reliever Ryan Thompson.

This season, Cleveland moved Civale, one of its best starters, but it doesn’t lack pitchers. Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, and Logan Allen have all had great rookie starts. Even though Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, and Cal Quantrill are all on the injured list, the Guardians will still have more starting players than they need for next season.

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