The Guardians’ rotation has been ravaged by injury this season, with right-handers Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Aaron Civale and Cal Quantrill all spending significant time on the injured list. They’ve already added Noah Syndergaard to help patch things over. Civale is healthy and pitching well right now, however, and the Guardians have at least pondered the possibility of selling high on him if it means acquiring a controllable young hitter, reports Zack Meisel of The Athletic. Cleveland has little appetite to trade prospects for a rental acquisition at this point, Meisel further notes.
MLBTR’s Anthony Franco looked at Civale’s trade candidacy two weeks ago, outlining the reasons he’d draw interest (strong results, affordable $2.6MM salary, two-plus seasons of club control remaining) and the reasons the Guardians could be reluctant to move the 28-year-old righty (an otherwise young rotation with workload concerns, injuries to other key starters, a desire to remain competitive in a weak AL Central, and that remaining club control that piques others’ interest). Little has changed in the equation since Anthony wrote that piece, perhaps with the exception of Civale’s ERA, which has continued to drop. Civale has taken the ball four times since that was written, and he’s posted a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 frames — dropping his season-long ERA from 2.56 to a stellar 2.34.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Civale’s ability to continue at quite such a strong pace. His career-low 19% strikeout rate is below the league average, and both his .242 average on balls in play and 82.7% strand rate seem bound to regress. He entered the season with respective marks of .281 and 72.3% in those areas. He’s also seen just 5.6% of his fly-balls turn into home runs, which is less than half the 12.5% league average and the 14% mark he carried into the current season.
Even when factoring for some expected regression, however, Civale is still a quality big league pitcher. He’s logged 430 innings in his career and touts a 3.77 ERA. Civale has regularly showed strong command, which has helped him limit hard contact at better-than-average levels. There are durability concerns, as he’s never reached 130 innings in a Major League season and never topped the combined 164 2/3 innings he pitched in the minors back in 2017 — his first full professional season. Civale has been on the minor league and big league injured list with a variety of injuries, including a lat strain, shoulder tightness, a finger sprain, a wrist sprain, forearm inflammation and, most recently, an oblique strain. It’s a lengthy list, but also one that notably does not include any surgeries.
Looking around the league, there’s no shortage of contenders seeking starting pitching — particularly affordable arms with multiple years of club control remaining. Not all of those clubs, however, are in position to deal a big league bat with multiple years of control remaining himself. Two weeks ago, Anthony listed both the D-backs and Orioles as teams brimming with young position players who could make such a swap. Both remain logical fits, as do the Cardinals and the Reds, to name a couple more.
Cleveland has a wealth of pitching talent, with rookies Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen and Gavin Williams currently finding success in the rotation. Bieber, who might’ve been a trade candidate this month were it not for a right elbow injury that sent him to the 60-day IL, is controlled through the 2024 season. He’s due a raise on this year’s $10MM salary, however, and could potentially be moved over the winter. Triston McKenzie (through 2026), Cal Quantrill (through 2025) and Peyton Battenfield (through 2029) all have multiple years of club control remaining beyond the current season. Trades of Civale and/or (in the offseason) Bieber could potentially yield additional pitching talent, and the Guards have numerous other yet-to-debut prospects, including Joey Cantillo, Tanner Burns and the again-injured Daniel Espino.