After Aaron Civale trade, Cleveland Guardians are punting on 2023 season

I don’t know anything about Kyle Manzardo.  Well, I know he put up big numbers in Double-A last year, and was the third-ranked prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system before this season. I also am reasonably certain that, if we went back and looked at the top 100 prospects for any year in the last decade, we would find that maybe half of them have had stellar MLB careers. Manzardo has struggled in Triple-A this season, the level where breaking pitches start to separate real hitters from the others. Maybe Manzardo will figure it out; maybe he won’t.

I know a lot more about Aaron Civale.  I know that he gets hurt a lot, but I also know that he has been the Cleveland Guardians’ best pitcher this season and would be leading the majors in ERA if he had pitched enough innings to qualify.  I also know that he has been the only starting pitcher for the Guardians who can consistently pitch into the sixth inning, which made him the only thing keeping the bullpen from being worn to a frazzle. Just about everyone left in Cleveland’s rotation will be on an innings limit by September, which means they will miss Civale even more.

Aaron Civale trade was bad deal for Cleveland Guardians

We may someday look at this trade like we look at Larry Andersen getting traded for Jeff Bagwell, and if we do, I’ll be as happy as anyone.  But what I know right now is that it is nearly impossible after the moves made at the trade deadline to envision the Cleveland Guardians remaining in contention in 2023. And, yes, that matters as much or more than how this trade will help the team at some point in the future.

You might say that this team bore no resemblance to a contender before trading Civale. However, on Sunday, they were a game out of first, and had won one game less than through the same number of games last season … and we know how that ended. Cleveland played the first 106 games so that the last 56 would matter, and now it seems like they don’t.

By the time Manzardo is good enough for this trade to pay off, Jose Ramirez might be over the hill, Terry Francona might be retired, and half the young pitchers who made Civale seem expendable might be hurt … or traded for other young prospects. When building a contending team, especially in a small market, it requires the confluence of a lot of things going right. Enough of those things went right this year to give the Guardians a shot. There’s no guarantee that will happen next year, or whatever year they were building for when they gave up on this year.