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How Luis Castillo Trade Impacts Mariners' Chances in MLB Playoff Race

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 30, 2022

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners acquired starting pitcher Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds on Friday in exchange for a four-prospect haul that includes farm-system standout Noelvi Marte.

Seattle Mariners @Mariners

Adding another ace. <br><br>We’ve acquired All-Star RHP Luis Castillo from the Reds in exchange for IF Noelvi Marte, IF Edwin Arroyo, RHP Levi Stoudt and RHP Andrew Moore. <br><br>📰 <a href="https://t.co/TEwvYUG1uP">https://t.co/TEwvYUG1uP</a> <a href="https://t.co/6H2KXbbpFc">pic.twitter.com/6H2KXbbpFc</a>

Castillo has been nothing short of sensational this season. The two-time All-Star has posted a 2.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 90 strikeouts over 85 innings (14 starts). He joins an already stacked starting rotation that includes four pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs and a fifth (Robbie Ray) who also won the American League Cy Young last year.

ESPN's Jeff Passan and Joe Fann of WynnBET gave their takes on the move:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

The Mariners wanted to make a splash, and have they ever with Luis Castillo. They got the best starter on the trade market, and with Logan Gilbert, Robbie Ray and others, their rotation is playoff-ready. Now they just need to finish strong for their first October in two decades.

Joe Fann @Joe_Fann

My two cents on the Luis Castillo trade:<br><br>I love it. Price tag hurts for sure but that’s the reality of trading for an ace. Tired of annually hoping the farm will be the savior of the franchise. Refill the cupboard in free agency. Seattle isn’t a small market. So act accordingly.

Castillo joins a Mariners team in the thick of the AL Wild Card race.

The New York Yankees and Houston Astros have all but sewn up the East and West divisions, respectively, accounting for two of the league's six playoff spots.

The third division-winning berth figures to go to one of the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox or Cleveland Guardians, who form the top three of the AL Central.

That would leave seven teams—the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, the two AL Central runners-up and the Mariners—fighting for the three wild-card spots.

All of those teams have between 49-55 wins. It's going to be a heated race, but the Mariners have a leg up now on most of the field.

They are holding the second wild-card spot with a 54-47 record. That puts them a game-and-a-half behind the Blue Jays for the first wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Rays for the last playoff berth and two-and-a-half games in front of the first team on the outside looking in (the Guardians).

And Seattle just got a whole lot better with Castillo. The Mariners have 61 games left, so Castillo should probably make around 12 starts. He posted a sub-3.00 ERA while pitching half of his games at the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, but now he'll get to work at pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

Per Baseball Reference, he's been worth 3.3 wins above replacement in his 14 starts. If he keeps that trend up in Seattle, he could be worth an extra two to three wins down the stretch. Staff ace Logan Gilbert is the only pitcher with a WAR above 1.2 (2.8). All other starters are between 0.4 and 1.2.

The remaining slate is also on the Mariners' side.

According to Tankathon, they have the fourth-easiest remaining strength of schedule in MLB.

Seattle plays the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics (two series), Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers over their final 20 games. All of those teams are 10 games or more below .500, and the Mariners close the year with a 10-game homestand.

Now, they do have six games against the Yankees, two against the Astros and three against a tough Atlanta team. But that will all be over by mid-September. In sum, the good news is far better than the bad.

The bottom line is the Mariners were well positioned to make the playoffs before adding Castillo, but now they are clear favorites to lock in one of those wild-card spots with ease.

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