Rays waving white flag on Aaron Civale cements expensive trade deadline embarrassment

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians
Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Last summer, the Tampa Bay Rays somehow coerced a woebegone American League team into surrendering a top-100 power prospect in exchange for a control pitcher with fading peripherals. That starter, after posting a 5.00+ ERA to end the 2023 season in his new home and a 5.00+ ERA to begin 2024, was unceremoniously dumped on Wednesday morning, four full weeks ahead of the trade deadline.

Oh, wait! Strike that, reverse it. It seems the Rays got caught this time, representing their first ever trade loss (for the time being, until we all learn that the fringe shortstop prospect Tampa Bay obtained from the Brewers is actually Willy Adames).

Are we sure Kyle Manzardo, the prospect sent Cleveland's way last summer, is good? No. We're not sure of anything. He sandwiched a double-filled stretch in his first taste of MLB with two bleak weeks, then was demoted, where he's continued to pummel Triple-A pitching.

But we do know that the Rays somehow weren't able to maximize Civale, who decreased their contention chances from the minute he arrived 'til the minute he left. Now, he's been spun off for an additional asset, while the Rays watch a valuable one simmer in Columbus.

Rays trade Aaron Civale at lowest value to Milwaukee Brewers

If the Rays were willing to trade Civale at a low point ... it's fair to wonder what comes next, as they hang around the fringes of the Wild Card race.

Would Tampa Bay dare help out the Yankees with lefty-swinging Brandon Lowe, who's entering his 30s with two expensive team options attached the next two years, and has remained a better-than-league-average bat even as he's lost his MVP shine? Zach Eflin, signer of the richest contract in Rays history (sad), is reportedly available. Is that a fit? Yandy Diaz? Isaac Paredes? Is the world becoming the Yankees' oyster? Is "never trade with the Rays if they engage you" still a rule of thumb?

It probably should be, from a division rivalry standpoint, but these two sides chipped at the door this offseason with a Ben Rortvedt swap, which the Yankees probably wish they could have back. If not now, when the Rays are licking their wounds after losing a slugging asset the the AL-best Guardians ... when?