The trade: The Mariners are acquiring RHP Luis Castillo from the Reds for SS Noelvi Marte, SS Edwin Arroyo, RHP Levi Stoudt and RHP Andrew Moore.
With the Mariners in a wildcard position and trying to end an epic playoff drought stretching back to the Stone Age (at least in the sporting years) of 2001, you knew general manager Jerry Dipoto would do something — and maybe a greater. He didn’t disappoint. The Mariners were thought to be one of the leading contenders for Juan Soto’s takeover, but Dipoto instead snapped up Castillo, who was considered the best starting pitcher (barring a shocking Shohei Ohtani trade), outbidding teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals Who were also on the hunt for Castillo.
Let’s get to the notes.
The Mariners are 17-5 in their last 22 games to put themselves in playoff position, but all five of those losses have come to the Astros since the All-Star break, with the Mariners scoring just 11 runs in those losses . So that’s why they were with Soto; They need to improve on an offense that ranks 11th in runs per game in the American League. But they faced another problem: Rookie George Kirby is nearing an innings limit with 94 innings in the season after hitting just 67.2 innings in his first full season as a pro in 2021. Without a viable #5 starter, they needed another starter to eventually replace Kirby in the rotation.
Castillo obviously fits into that hole. The two-time All-Star is only 4-4, but he owns a 2.86 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 85 innings (he missed April after coming out of spring practice with a sore shoulder). He’s been particularly hot lately, with a 1.59 ERA in his last five starts, including pitching seven innings in his last four games. Two of those games were against the Braves and Yankees, two of the best tackles in the majors, so he wasn’t just hitting the Cubs and Pirates. Averaging 96-97 mph in fastball, Castillo’s speed has never been an issue, nor has his move, which has been one of the best in the majors for several years. But he’s developed a little more consistency this season, dropping his walk rate from a 3.6 per nine innings to a 3.0, and his slider has turned into a wipeout pitch, leaving batters on a .189 average and just one home run holds. Scouts have long viewed Castillo as a potential ace, and he was closer to that level in 2022 than ever before — so any contenders who needed a starter wanted this guy.
Castillo has gotten deep into the games, serving 187.2 innings in 2021 and 190.2 in 2019. The Castillo acquisition should allow Scott Servais to take innings back from sophomore right-hander Logan Gilbert, who has 123 innings pitched, just three behind Alek Manoah for most in the AL. Kirby can switch to the bullpen or do a few point starts as needed. Seattle’s bullpen has been without light for the past two months – entering Friday’s games he had a 2.59 ERA, the best in the majors since May 25 – so the Mariners now have plenty of depth in both the Rotation as well as in pen have to get through the last two months.
The added bonus is that Castillo is also under team control for 2023, giving the Mariners six viable starting pitcher options for next season with Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen. Of course, there’s still that attack that needs updating. Trading with Marte, their best prospect, almost certainly takes them out of the Soto sweepstakes, which they probably wouldn’t win anyway. Sure, they could offer a package featuring Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, and another prospect, but that would basically empty the farm system, and given Kelenic’s struggles at the major league level, his trade value isn’t Soto-worthy now anyway. The big upgrade the Ms are looking for must likely come from Mitch Haniger, who has been out (except for one game) since mid-April. He’s finally in rehab in the minors and should be back soon. Remember, he hit 39 home runs last season.
But Haniger alone may not be enough, especially as the wildcard race remains a tussle with the Blue Jays, Rays, AL Central teams and maybe the Orioles and Red Sox. The Mariners could still be looking for a second-line bat, someone like Joc Pederson, Ian Happ (although he has another from team control so the Cubs may not trade him), Brandon Drury or David Peralta. Or maybe Jesse Winker will finally start raking as consistently as he did in 2021.
Look, you can argue that no team needs a trip to the playoffs more than the Mariners… but they gave up two extremely promising prospects to get Castillo, and I think there’s a very good chance that trade will be lopsided in favor of looks rot in a few years. Yes, the trade is helping the Mariners this season and next, but given how the Astros have beaten them in five games lately, Seattle 2022 hardly looks like a World Series contender (but you’ve got to get in to to have a chance!) .
The Reds and Mariners swung back the Winker/Eugenio Suarez deal in spring practice (pitching prospect Brandon Williamson was the Reds’ jackpot in that event), which explains the deal. The Reds are familiar with the Seattle system, and the two front offices have had interactions before, often the key to any successful transaction.
And there’s a reason the Reds agreed to this deal: They may have hit a home run.
Marte was Kiley McDaniel’s No. 12 at the start of the season, and he’s played at a level to stay — or maybe even move up — that ranking. He’s batting .270/.360/.460 for Everett in the High-A Northwest League at 20, making him one of the league’s youngest players. His .820 OPS is well above the league average of .693, and he’s been particularly hot lately, hitting a .370 with seven home runs (with 10 walks and only 12 strikeouts) in July. You’ve got to love this mid-season adjustment/improvement. Marte’s performance potential was his calling card, Kiley gave him a 60 mark in spring training. He may not stick to the shortstop, but the bat and glove make a slight profile on third base. Look, you never know with a prospect, and Marte didn’t exactly tear it up ahead of his hot streak in July, but unless the hit tool suddenly evaporates, Marte at least looks like a solid big leaguer and one with star potential. For more than a year Castillo this is as good as you can expect.
Except that the Reds also brought Arroyo, Seattle’s second-round pick last year, from Puerto Rico. He was a very young draft pick, not turning 19 until August, but was super impressive in the Low-A California League, hitting .316/.385/.514 with 13 home runs. Yes, you have to adjust the California League stats — the league’s OPS is .755 — but Arroyo is one of two 18-year-olds in the league with at least 93 at-bats and the other is batting .188. Oh, he also steals 21-to-24 bases with a chance to stay at shortstop. That looks like a top 100 prospect heading into 2023. Reds fans should be very excited about this deal.
But that’s not all. Levi Stoudt was probably Seattle’s No. 5 or No. 6 by general consensus, though he struggled at Double-A Arkansas with a 5.28 ERA and 13 homers allowed in 87 innings. But he’s got great stuff, with a top-90s fastball and a move that has been seen as his best secondary option. The strikeout to walk ratio was pretty good at 82 to 22, so with more refinement there’s still starter potential here.
Andrew Moore (not the former Mariners prospect of the same name who is now outnumbered by the Blue Jays) is a reliever with bugs-bunny numbers at Modesto (58 K’s, no homers in 32.1 innings). Picked into the 14th round by Chipola Junior College in Florida last year, the numbers are at least intriguing.
You see, every rebuild is painful, and while you can blame the Reds for starting to sell their best players in spring training, you can’t blame the Reds for that trade.