The Cincinnati Reds have traded starting pitcher Luis Castillo to the Seattle Mariners, the Mariners announced on Friday.
ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported the trade.
The M's are trading four prospects—including shortstop Noelvi Marte—to the Reds, per C. Trent Rosecrans of the Athletic.
Shortstop Edwin Arroyo and right-handed pitchers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore are also going to Cincinnati.
Marte is ranked No. 18 overall on MLB.com's prospect list. The 20-year-old entered Friday hitting .270 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI for the Single-A Everett AquaSox.
MLB.com ranks Arroyo as the Mariners' No. 3 prospect and No. 93 overall leaguewide. Stoudt is fifth on the Mariners' list.
The move continues the Reds' cost-cutting.
Between 2019-21, Cincinnati went from 15th to 16th to 17th in Opening Day payroll, per Cot's Baseball Contracts. The franchise hasn't been a big spender in recent years, but its recent business showed there was going to be a financial reset.
Tucker Barnhart, who earns $7.5 million in 2022, was shipped to the Detroit Tigers. The Reds waived Wade Miley altogether rather than assuming his $10 million option. Then came the trades of Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker.
Castillo has two more years of arbitration before entering free agency in 2024. That means he'll probably earn less than he would on the open market until then, but that didn't make much difference for the Reds given their priorities.
C. Trent Rosecrans @ctrent
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His contract status also meant this was the final opportunity for general manager Nick Krall to fully maximize any return in a trade. Dealing a player effectively on an expiring contract inevitably means having to take pennies on the dollar.
As great as Mookie Betts is, the Boston Red Sox had to basically trade him at a loss because of the implications of him being one year away from free agency.
Castillo went 8-16 with a 3.98 ERA and a 3.75 FIP in 33 starts in 2021, production that fell off slightly compared to the year before.
The right-hander made 12 appearances in 2020, finishing 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA and a 2.65 FIP. He averaged 11.44 strikeouts and 3.09 walks per nine innings. His 2.5 WAR was sixth-highest among pitchers.
Castillo's 2022 season didn't start on a great note as he landed on the disabled list and missed Opening Day because of soreness in his right shoulder. Upon returning, he has gone 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA and a 3.21 FIP in 14 starts.
Shoulder trouble is often a concerning development since it can presage a larger injury. In Castillo's case, he appears to have avoided anything serious.
While he has continued to perform at the level many have expected of him, it's fair to wonder how much a change of scenery could boost his performance.
Team president Phil Castellini practically begged fans to stop rooting for the franchise when addressing their growing frustration. On the field, Cincinnati's fortunes can best be summed up by the fact it managed to lose a game in which it had a combined no-hitter.
As the defeats piled up, finding the motivation to continue playing at a high level might be difficult.
Acquiring Castillo is a worthwhile gamble for the Mariners. He's a consistently solid performer and has possessed one truly elite pitch. Despite some early struggles, his changeup boasted a .267 expected slugging percentage and a .244 expected wOBA in 2021, per Baseball Savant.
Between Cincinnati's small market size and the Reds' lack of recent success, Castillo may have flown under the radar for a lot of fans. That won't be the case any longer since his move to Seattle will bring an added level of attention and scrutiny.
Overtaking the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West is probably a bridge too far, but the Mariners at least look like they have a great shot at claiming a wild-card spot. And simply qualifying for the playoffs is a major achievement for a franchise that hasn't tasted postseason baseball since 2001.
With Julio Rodriguez already looking like a franchise cornerstone and more young players working their way to the majors, this season shouldn't be Seattle's only playoff window. Instead, this is the fruit of Jerry Dipoto's rebuild.
Acquiring Castillo doesn't single-handedly make the Mariners the World Series favorites, but it undoubtedly boosts their chances of making a deep run ever so slightly.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.