Professions: The Mariners acquired RHP Luis Castillo from the Reds for SS Noelvi Marte, SS Edwin Arroyo, RHP Levi Stoudt and RHP Andrew Moore.
With the Mariners on an unruly stance looking to end an epic stone-age drought (at least in the sport’s years) of 2001, you knew General Manager Jerry Dipoto was on the verge of a move – and perhaps a big one. It did not disappoint. The Mariners are believed to be one of the main contenders for the acquisition of Juan Soto, but Diputo instead took over Castillo, who is seen as the best pitcher available (with the exception of Shohei Ohtani’s incredible deal), and bidding teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals who were also in the hunt Hot for Castillo.
Let’s go to the grades.
The Mariners have run 17-5 over their last 22 games to position themselves in the playoff position, but all five of those losses have come against the Astros since the All-Star break, with the Mariners scoring just 11 points in those defeats. That’s why they were in Soto. They need to improve their attack, which is 11th in the MLS in number of runs per game. But they had another problem: Rookie George Kirby is nearing the innings limit, with 94 runs a season after showing just 67.2 in 2021 in his first full season as a professional. Without a viable number 5 start, they needed another start to eventually replace Kirby in the spin.
Castillo clearly fits that slot. The two-time All-Star is only 4-4, but has a 2.86 ERA with 90 strikes in 85 rounds (April missed after coming out of spring training with an afternoon shoulder). He’s been particularly hot lately, with 1.59 ERAs over his past five starts, including delivering seven rounds in his past four. Two of those matches came against the Braves and Yankees, two of the best offenses in the major tournaments, so he didn’t just beat Cubs and Pirates. With a fast ball averaging 96 to 97 mph, Castillo’s speed was never an issue, nor his shifting, who was one of the best in the majors for several years. But he has developed more consistency this season, with his gait dropping from 3.6 per nine runs to 3.0 and his passer turning into an erasing pitch, bringing the racket up an average of 0.189 and only one home run. Scout Castillo has always considered a potential champion, and he’s closer than ever to that level in 2022 – which is why all the contenders who need a starting player wanted this guy.
Castillo has been delving into the games, delivering 187.2 innings in 2021 and 190.2 in 2019. Castillo’s acquisition should allow Scott Serveis to fall off the roles of right-hand man Logan Gilbert in the second year, who made 123 innings, behind Alec Manoah by just three rounds. For most in AL. Kirby can go to the Bullpen or start some places as needed. The Bullpen has been off in Seattle for the past two months — it entered Friday’s games, has had a 2.59 ERA since May 25, and is the best in the majors — so the Mariners now have plenty of depth in both spin and pen to get to in the last two months.
The added bonus is that Castillo is also under team control for 2023, giving the Mariners six viable choices of starting bowlers for next season in Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen. Of course, there are still those offenses that need an upgrade. Trading Marte, their biggest possibility, is almost certain to knock them out of the Soto sweepstakes, which they probably won’t win anyway. Sure, they could offer a bundle of Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis and other prospects, but that would essentially empty the farm system, and given Kelenic’s struggles at the major league level, his commercial value isn’t worth Soto now anyway. The big upgrade M is looking for will likely come from Mitch Haniger, who has been out since mid-April (other than one match). He has finally returned to rehabilitate the mansion and will be back soon. Remember, he hit 39 home runs last season.
But Haniger alone may not be enough, especially since the wild card race is still competing with the Blue Jays, Rays and AL Central teams, and possibly the Orioles and Red Sox. Sailors can still hunt for a second-rate bat, someone like Jock Pederson, Ian Hap (although he has other team control, so the Cubs might not trade him), Brandon Drury or David Peralta. Or maybe Jesse Winker will finally start to consolidate on a consistent basis as he did in 2021.
Look, you could argue that no team needs a trip to the playoffs more than the Mariners… but they have given up two very promising prospects to get Castillo, and I think there is a very strong possibility that this trade could look lopsided in favor of the Reds in a few years. Yes, that trade helps the sailors this season and next, but given the way the Astros have crushed them in five games recently, Seattle hardly looks like a contender for the World Championships in 2022 (but you’ve got to get a chance!).
The Reds and Mariners brought the Winker/Eugenio Suarez deal back in to spring practice (the prospect of promoting Brandon Williamson was the Reds’ main target in that), and that helps explain the deal. The Reds know the Seattle system, and the two front offices have dealt with each other before, and that’s often the key to any successful transaction.
And there’s a reason the Reds agreed to this deal: they may have had success on home soil.
Mart was Kelly McDaniel’s number. 12 prospects are entering the season, and they’ve played at a level to stay in that rating – or maybe even move up. He hits .270/.360/.460 for Everett in the Northwest High League at the age of 20, making him one of the youngest players in the league. His .820 OPS is well above the league average of 0.693, and he’s been particularly hot lately, reaching .370 with seven runs in July (with just 10 walks and 12 strokes). You have to love this mid-season mod/improvement. Marte’s strong potential was his calling card, with Kiley giving her a score of 60 again in spring training. It may not stick short, but the bat and gauntlet will come out easily at third base. See, you never know with any possibility, and Marte wasn’t quite ripping it off before his July hot streak, but unless his batting tool suddenly evaporates, Marte at least looks like a solid big player and one with stellar potential. For over 1 year from Castillo, this is as good as you can expect.
Except for the Reds, they also got Arroyo, Seattle’s second-round pick last year, from Puerto Rico. He was pretty young in the draft pick and didn’t turn 19 until August, but he’s been pretty impressive in the California low-level league, coming in at .316/.385/.514 with 13 home runs. Yes, you should tweak the California league stats – the league’s OPS is 0.755 – but Arroyo is one of two 18-year-olds in the league with no fewer than 93 bats and the other up to 0.88. Oh, it’s also a 21-for-24 heist rule with a chance to stay short. This looks like it’s in the top 100 heading into 2023. Reds fans must be pretty excited about this deal.
However, that is not all. Perhaps Levi Stodt was the number one in Seattle. 5 or not. 6 prospect by general consensus, though he fought in Double-A Arkansas with a 5.28 ERA and 13 home runs allowed in 87 rounds. But he has big things, with fastball in the upper 90s and a change being seen as his best secondary option. The strike-to-walk ratio was pretty good at 82 to 22, so with further improvement there is still a starting potential here.
Andrew Moore (not a former Mariners prospect of the same name who is now in minors with Blue Jays) is diluted with Modesto’s Bugs Bunny numbers (58 K, no house at 32.1 innings). The 14th round was picked last year by Chipola Junior College in Florida, and the numbers are at least imaginable.
See, a painful rebuild, and while you can blame the Reds for starting to dump their best players in spring training, you can’t blame the Reds for this deal.