Rays trade struggling starter Aaron Civale to Brewers for prospect

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rays traded struggling starter Aaron Civale to the Brewers on Wednesday morning, creating space to improve a rotation that could soon become crowded, saving money and adding a solid infield prospect in Gregory Barrios.

The Rays acquired Civale from Cleveland during last year’s trade deadline for first base prospect Kyle Manzardo. The 29-year-old right-handed pitcher has not fared well with Tampa Bay, going 4-9, 5.17 in 27 starts, completing six innings just four times.

The deal saves the Rays about half of Civale’s $4.9 million salary for this season and eliminates the need to pay his 2025 arbitration-related raise, which is expected to be around $7 million. This is his final year before he becomes a free agent.

It also creates an opening in the rotation, one that will be filled initially by Shane Baz, who pitched well at Triple-A Durham and is scheduled to start for the Rays in place of Civale on Friday at Texas. By late July, the Rays also expect to have back left-hander Jeffrey Springs, who is in the final stages of his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery.

And the trade netted Barrios, a 20-year-old who is ranked the 21st prospect in the Milwaukee organization by MLB.com. Barrios will report to Bowling Green, the Rays’ High Class-A affiliate.

“We’re going into a period where we have, in our opinion, more options, more healthy options, in a sense, than we have now,” Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander said by phone. “I want to be very, very careful about that because we know how quickly that can change. That’s part of the reason we brought Aaron in in the first place.

“But we felt that the opportunity to bring in a prospect that our scouts and analysts both really liked, that fits well into our system, was, when you look at that, when you have someone like Shane Baz, who I think it’s important that he gets those opportunities in the big leagues, that combination has put us in a position where this is attractive.”

Milwaukee Brewers' Gregory Barrios (center) and Yophery Rodriguez (right) walk to the Brewers' dugout prior to a spring baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 3, 2024, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Milwaukee Brewers’ Gregory Barrios (center) and Yophery Rodriguez (right) walk to the Brewers’ dugout prior to a spring baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 3, 2024, in Scottsdale, Arizona. [ ROSS D. FRANKLIN | AP ]

Barrios, a native of Venezuela, received a $1 million bonus to sign with the Brewers and has moved up a level every season since. He’s hitting .325 this season at High-A Wisconsin with one home run, 34 RBIs and a .796 OPS. MLB.com’s scouting report describes his defense this way: “The 6-foot infielder moves like water at shortstop with a solid first step, sound instincts and impressive plays. He’s capable of making plenty of throws from deep in the gap, and his fielding will likely fuel his ascent.”

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Neander said the Rays appreciate him a lot.

“He’s a great defender, has great makeup, has great contact skills and at 20 years old I think he has a chance to develop into enough of a force to be a solid regular player,” Neander said.

After Civale’s unimpressive debut with the Rays last season, the team concluded that an in-depth analysis of the data showed that in 10 starts for the Rays he was not as bad as his 2-3, 5.36 averages would indicate, and that in 13 starts for Cleveland he was also not as good as his 5-2, 2.34 averages would indicate.

Though he got off to a decent start for the Rays this year, going 2-1, 2.12 in his first three starts, Civale has struggled for most of the season, including a streak of four starts in which he failed to make it past the fifth inning (allowing 20 runs in 18 2/3 innings). He is 2-6, 5.07 this season, with 14 starts since his last win. The Rays are 5-12 in his starts this year.

“We recognize where the run prevention results have been and believe he’s a better pitcher than that,” Neander said. “These things can happen over the course of 12 months. Just like the 12 months before that, I think it was on the other side when it came to run prevention, even better than it might have been.

“I think the truth is he’s probably the type of pitcher that’s in his overall numbers the last two years. When you look at that, that’s a very good starting pitcher. And I think he is. So I wish him nothing but the best and expect him to be that for Milwaukee.”

Shane Baz has impressed at Durham, returning to top form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2022 and a subsequent abdominal muscle injury.
Shane Baz has impressed at Durham, returning to top form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2022 and a subsequent abdominal muscle injury. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

Veteran starter Zach Eflin said Civale will be missed.

“It’s never easy to lose such a great player and person,” Eflin said. “He brought so much to this team, chemistry-wise, leadership-wise, talent-wise. … I’m really sad, honestly. I love ‘Civ.’ It’s just been a pleasure playing with him this past year.”

Baz was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday for Durham, initially to be available to provide depth for the big team with the potential for a doubleheader or heavy use of the bullpen this week in Kansas City because of forecasted rain. The Rays called up Justin Sterner on Wednesday to provide depth; Baz will be added to the roster on Friday.

An oblique injury in the spring — from lifting a weight — delayed Baz’s return from Tommy John surgery in September 2022. And it led to him being sent to Durham after completing his rehab assignment, as the Rays also looked to limit his workload. He improved as he went along, and in five starts in June for the Bulls, he was 3-0, 1.57, allowing 20 hits and 10 walks in 23 innings while striking out 35.

“He’s throwing the ball well, his results are better,” manager Kevin Cash said. “That’s why I’m so encouraged.”

Springs made his fifth rehab start for Durham on Wednesday, throwing four scoreless innings with a 2.71 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. He is expected to remain with the Bulls through the All-Star break from July 15-18.

The Rays also have starting options at Durham in left-hander Joe Rock, who is not on the roster and is 4-3, 4.11 in 14 games since being acquired from Colorado; and left-hander Tyler Alexander, who began the season in Tampa Bay’s rotation and is 0-3, 3.64 in five Triple-A games.


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