Did the Cardinals miss an opportunity or avoid a disaster with Aaron Civale?

The Cardinals are in need of starting pitching, and a notable name is now no longer available
Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles
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We are now in July which is setting up the mid summer classic known as All-Star Weekend. But it is also turning on the hot stove as we are entering trade rumor territory. Wednesday morning brought us our first big move as the Cardinals' rival the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired Aaron Civale for minor league prospect Gregory Barrios. This is shocking due to the fact that Civale was in a bigger trade in 2023 that send heralded prospect Kyle Manzardo to the Guardians. What the Brewers have acquired is a starter who is struggling in 2024, but is very serviceable at the back of the rotation.

This pitcher profile is exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals need before the trade deadline. It is common knowledge from the eye test, the press reporting their opinion, and even the team themselves addressing the issue that the 5th spot in the Cardinals rotation is a definite problem that needs to be filled. As the deadline creeps closer, you start to find the true sellers and see how desperate they are to make moves before time runs out. That is the best way to avoid spending too much in prospect capital that can turn around to bite you if not careful. The Cardinals know a thing or two about that with their outfield prospects over the years.

Aaron Civale being dealt for the Brewers' 21st-ranked prospect in early July seems like a very missed opportunity. Civale is only 29 years old and is under team control until the 2026 season. Being a cheap option with a strong track record of being a reliable starter, why couldn't the Cardinals match or exceed that offer? The Cardinals' equivalent ranked prospect is Zack Levenson who is not making much noise in High-A ball. That seems like a very easy yes if the same offer was awarded to the Cardinals' FO. Given he is a proven arm, could the Cardinals not entice a player like Cesar Prieto who carries enough experience to be a role player at the Major League Level?

On the other hand, Civale has looked awful during 2024. The majority of his sabermetric precentiles are in the blue with no real edge to his pitching this season. The result has led to a 2-6 record, 5.07 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, with 84 SO in 87 IP. You see the face value of his stats and immediately say we avoided a potential disaster. But under the hood, he shows very promising data. His xERA is 4.15 which is almost a whole run lower than the actual ERA.

His pitches are showing strong vertical movements and most of them show strong horizontal movements. What is hurting Civale is not producing ground balls like he should and is allowing more fly balls. He is allowing a hard hit percentage that is higher than his career average by almost two percent and is walking batters at a whole percent higher than his career average. If he can limit flyballs and pitch to contact, his numbers should improve.

Did the Cardinals miss a great opportunity to fill their desired 5th rotation spot by missing on Aaron Civale? Or did the Cardianls avoid disaster with a pitcher who would cost part of the teams' future with mediocre production? It is way too early to tell the result of this trade. We should get our answer come last September when we see who the Cardinals acquire to fill the rotation hole and see where the teams line up in the NL Central race.