The 5 Best Landing Spots for Reds' Luis Castillo Amid Trade Rumors
The Cincinnati Reds might actually trade Luis Castillo this time.
After general manager Nick Krall firmly denied that the ace right-hander was on the trading block last offseason, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that the Reds are now willing to shop Castillo this winter. Unsurprisingly, he's "already drawing interest."
Though such interest might have developed regardless, the level it's at right now is undoubtedly related to early offseason happenings in Cincinnati.
Slugger Nick Castellanos is as good as gone after opting out, while the Reds have already parted with catcher Tucker Barnhart (trade) and left-hander Wade Miley (waivers). With the team's payroll apparently needing to come down, Castillo's projected $7.6 million salary for 2022 is an obvious target for the next cut.
So, let's discuss where his trade value is at and which prospective suitors fit him best.
What Is Luis Castillo's Trade Value?
Castillo was one of the best pitchers in the National League across 2019 and 2020, making 44 starts and riding his mid-to-high 90s heat and nasty changeup to a 3.35 ERA with 315 strikeouts over 260.2 innings. It was thus shocking to see him get bombed to the tune of a 7.22 ERA through the first two months of 2021.
He eventually righted the ship in a substantial way, finishing with a 2.73 ERA and 144 strikeouts over his last 135.1 innings. Notably, he also led qualified pitches in ground-ball rate.
Though Castillo will turn 29 on Dec. 12, he still has two years of club control standing between him and free agency. In other words, he's a reasonably young, ace-caliber starter who could help a team win both in 2022 and 2023.
Castillo's situation calls to mind that of Gerrit Cole after 2017. But the trade that sent him from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Houston Astros in January 2018 was an odd one at the time and even more so almost four years later.
Rather, the Toronto Blue Jays' trade for Jose Berrios from this July looks more relevant to Castillo's value. The Minnesota Twins were able to extract two top-100 prospects (SS Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson) for Berrios even though he only had a year and two months of club control left.
If we assume that Castillo is at least as valuable now as Berrios was in July, perhaps the most fascinating trade the Reds could make would be with one of their rivals in the National League Central.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
Though the St. Louis Cardinals won 90 games and snagged a wild-card berth in 2021, it was suboptimal that Adam Wainwright was their only viable starting pitcher for much of the season. The Cardinals shouldn't count on the 40-year-old right-hander being that reliable again in 2022.
Between that and how Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson have had their own durability issues of late, acquiring at least one starter should be a priority.
Castillo would be perfect, and not just because he has yet to land on the injured list in five major league seasons. He's also familiar with the NL Central, and his ground-ball style would mesh beautifully with a Cardinals infield that led the majors in outs above average in 2021.
The Cardinals are short on top-100 prospects, but two of the three that they have (Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker) could appeal to the Reds. Both play third base, where Eugenio Suarez's lost season resulted in an MLB-low minus-1.4 rWAR in 2021.
However, there is the question of whether a blockbuster trade between these two teams is workable. Even if the Reds were willing to deal Castillo to the Cardinals, they might rather not send two of their best prospects to play elsewhere in the NL Central.
4. San Francisco Giants
Meanwhile in the NL West, a San Francisco Giants starting rotation that was solid throughout the team's 107-win campaign in 2021 is now very much not so.
Logan Webb is still there, but Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto are not guaranteed to return. All four are free agents, which makes either re-signing or replacing them the top priority for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
Castillo actually began his pro career in the Giants organization. Were he to return, it's hard to imagine him not succeeding amid Oracle Park's pitcher-friendly dimensions and with the Giants' Brandon Crawford-led infield defense behind him.
For their part, the Reds might like the idea of plucking prospects from San Francisco's rich system. They could potentially even have a shot at shortstop Marco Luciano, who we have ranked as the No. 7 talent in all of baseball.
But if the Giants would rather hold their prospects for now, they can afford to do so. They project to have north of $100 million to spend on 2022 salaries not just on starters, but also replacements for catcher Buster Posey (retirement) and first baseman Brandon Belt (free agent).
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
If the Giants don't make a run at Castillo, the team that won one fewer game than they did in 2021 might be inclined to do so.
The Los Angeles Dodgers do have their own rotation shortcomings. Cy Young Award winners Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are both set to become free agents. Fellow Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer is still under contract, yet his career is still in doubt as a result of sexual assault allegations.
Though the Dodgers aren't exactly hurting for money, their projected luxury-tax payroll for 2022 is already brushing up against $211 million. So even if the next collective bargaining agreement raises the threshold from $210 million to, say, $220 or $230 million, they'll be on a budget if they want to avoid penalties.
If so, Castillo's projected $7.6 million salary for 2022 could fit within that budget. And with six top-100 prospects in their system—notably including catcher Diego Cartaya—the Dodgers have the pieces to get him.
The Dodgers also might not adhere to a budget and push their payroll close to $300 million again. If that's the case, not much could stop them from re-signing Scherzer and Kershaw.
2. New York Yankees
If the New York Yankees get involved with Castillo at some point this winter, it wouldn't be the first time.
The Yankees popped up in several rumors concerning Castillo last offseason, including one about a proposed trade that would have sent Gleyber Torres to Cincinnati. After watching Torres struggle throughout 2021, the Yankees might wish they had taken the Reds up on that one.
All the same, the Yankees' rotation could use another top-of-the-rotation starter to support Gerrit Cole. Castillo certainly fits the bill, and the Yankees have the talent to do a deal even if Torres is presumably off the table this time.
Of the four top-100 prospects among the Yankees' inventory, shortstop Anthony Volpe is easily the most attractive at No. 15 overall. But there's also athletic marvel Jasson Dominguez and gas-throwing righty Luis Gil.
One catch here is that the Yankees' infield defense is the opposite of good. That casts them as more of a questionable fit for Castillo, and they should have bigger fish in their sights anyway. They need a shortstop and first baseman, not to mention left-handed hitters in general.
1. New York Mets
The Yankees once again figure to be a frequent presence in the Castillo rumor mill, but he's a much better fit for the other New York team.
For one thing, the Yankees aren't the ones who stand to lose Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard. That's the New York Mets, who might otherwise take a liking to Castillo out of a desire to have a backup No. 1 should Jacob deGrom's forearm problems persist in 2022.
In addition, the Mets infield ranked second to the Cardinals in outs above average in 2021. That was mostly Francisco Lindor's doing at shortstop, but he'll still be around in 2022. There's also a decent chance of fellow Gold Glover Javier Baez returning to play second base.
Prospects-wise, whoever owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson tab to run their front office might be reluctant to part with the Mets' three top-100 prospects, headlined by catcher Francisco Alvarez (No. 9 overall). Then again, perhaps not.
Rather than go all-out in free agency last winter, the Mets mostly played it cool and saved their big splash for the trade market, acquiring Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in a blockbuster with the Cleveland Guardians. If a similar approach is in order for this winter, that could be Castillo's ticket to New York.