10:03pm: Both teams have announced the deal.
9:31pm: Infielder Edwin Arroyo and pitchers Andrew Moore and Levi Stoudt are also headed to Cincinnati, Divish reports (on Twitter).
9:26pm: Seattle is likely to send four prospects back to Cincinnati, including top shortstop prospect Noelvi Martereports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (on Twitter).
9:23pm: The Mariners are finalizing a deal to acquire Luis Castillo from the Reds, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). Assuming a deal gets across the finish line, it’ll be the biggest splash of the trade market thus far.
Castillo is perhaps the prize of the starting pitching market. He’s been of the game’s top trade candidates for months, with the last place Reds always likely to pull the trigger on a deal this summer. The right-hander has been one of the sport’s best pitchers over the past few seasons, and he’s worked at peak form over the past couple months.
After missing a few weeks due to shoulder soreness to open the year, Castillo made his season debut in early May and has looked like a bona fide top-of-the-rotation arm. He’s made 14 starts and worked 85 innings, pitching to a 2.86 ERA despite playing his home games in one of the league’s more hitter-friendly parks. Castillo has punched out a solid 25.8% of opposing hitters against a solid 8% walk rate. This season’s 47.1% grounder percentage is down a bit relative to his 2019-21 levels, but it remains a few points better than the league average.
That kind of high-end production is about what we’ve come to expect from Castillo, who has cemented himself as one of the sport’s top arms over the past few seasons. He’s posted an ERA under 4.00 in each of the past four seasons, carrying a cumulative 3.49 mark in 91 starts since the beginning of the 2019 campaign. That’s 24th among 98 qualified starters over that stretch. His 26.8% strikeout rate ranks 23rd among that group, and he’s 12th with a 14.2% swinging strike percentage (whiffs per pitch). He’s complements the strikeout stuff with a massive 54.8% ground-ball percentage that ranks among the top ten.
Few pitchers can match Castillo’s combination of whiffs and grounders, and the 29-year-old backs it up with an impressive arsenal. He’s one of the harder throwing starters, averaging just shy of 97 MPH on both his four-seam and sinker. Castillo’s bread-and-butter secondary pitch, his changeup, is among the game’s top offspeed offerings, and he’s gotten strong results on his slider in recent seasons as well.
Castillo will move to the front of a rotation that suddenly looks to be one of the most fearsome in the sport. The M’s signed reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a five-year deal over the winter, and second-year howler Logan Gilbert has a 2.78 ERA through 21 starts. rookie George Kirbywho was generally considered among the top handful of pitching prospects in the game entering the season, has a 3.50 ERA through his first 13 big league starts. Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales aren’t high-strikeout arms, but they’re more than capable back-of-the-rotation types.
Seattle will want to keep an eye on the innings totals for Gilbert and Kirby, so there’d have been sense in even adding a stable back-of-the-rotation type. Instead, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and his staff swung bigger to bolster their 54-46 club they expect to snap the franchise’s two-decade playoff drought. Should they make the postseason, the front office and fanbase alike would no doubt feel strongly about their ability to match opponents’ top three arms with Castillo, Ray and Gilbert.
The deal is about more than just the 2022 season, though, as Castillo will be arbitration-eligible for a final time this winter. He’s making $7.35MM this season, around $2.75MM of which has yet to be paid out. He’ll earn a decent raise in arbitration but still have a plenty affordable salary — likely around the $12MM range. That’s an obvious bargain for a pitcher of his caliber, making a year and a half of his incredibly valuable services.
That’s reflected in the Reds return, which looks very strong. Marte and Arroyo were the top two prospects in the Seattle system on Baseball America’s most recent top 100, respectively checking in 47th and 48th in the league. Marte, the most well-known of the group, entered the season ranked among the game’s top 15 farmhands in the estimation of each of Keith Law of the Athletic, FanGraphs and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.
A 6’3″ infielder out of the Dominican Republic, Marte is universally projected as a possible plus power hitter capable of racking up 25 or more home runs annually at his peak. He has played exclusively shortstop in the minors, and while evaluators suggest he might eventually grow off that position, he’s expected to stick on the infield as a possible above-average third baseman. He’s spent the year in High-A as a 20-year-old, putting up an impressive .270/.360/.460 line with 15 homers, a strong 10.8% walk rate and a manageable 21.1% strikeout percentage through 389 plate appearances .
More to come.