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Exploring the Starting Pitching Trade Market: Luis Castillo (CIN)

This past weekend we learned from Dan Federico and Jon Heyman that the Cincinnati Reds are actively looking for offers on RHP Luis Castillo. With 3 arbitration years remaining, is this top-tier starting pitcher work a look for the Yankees? Do they have a good enough farm to trade for him? Let’s find out together.

On top of Suarez and Gray, the Reds are also listening on Luis Castillo, although it would take “a ton” to get him. Reds in full on sell mode, I’m told — Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) December 19, 2020

Who Is Luis Castillo?

Signed by the San Francisco Giants out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in 2011 around his 19th birthday, Castillo was an older signing when it comes to talent out of the islands. He would stay with the Giants as a middling-prospect through 2014 as they mainly used him in a relief role where he was seeing success (3.07 ERA over 58.2 innings). In December of 2014, he was included in a deal to the Miami Marlins for (former Yankee) 3B Casey McGahee and that next season the Marlins had him starting about half of his games (16 GS of 35 G) as Castillo made it up to A-Advanced Jupiter. He handled the jump well (3.20 ERA over 107.0 innings) and this had the Marlins start to turn Castillo into a full-time starter.

In 2016, Castillo would start 24 of the 26 games he played in while racking up 131.2 innings with a 2.26 ERA while mainly playing in Jupiter again. He did earn a short end-of-the-year call up to Double-A Jacksonville and pitched fine there too (3.86 ERA in 3 starts; 14 innings). This almost didn’t happen only with the Marlins as he was originally traded that prior offseason to the San Diego Padres as part of a 7-player deal, but Castillo was flipped back after Colin Rea suffered an injury after his first start with the fish just four days later and before he would record any playing time in the Padres organization.

However, his time with the Marlins would end anyway as during the 2016/17 offseason he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds as part of a 4-player deal for RHP Dan Straily. Luis Castillo would spend the first half of that 2017 season with Double-A Pensacola (2.58 ERA in 14 starts; 80.1 innings) and be promoted to the MLB on June 23rd. Ever since he’s been a mainstay in their rotation.

The Stats of Luis Castillo (2017-2020 and 2021 Projections):

Over his 3.5 year MLB career, Luis Castillo has pitched to a 32-33 record with a 3.62 ERA over 90 starts and 519.2 innings. When looking at more advanced stats, he has a career 3.77 FIP, a 124 ERA+, and 1.168 WHIP, all of which are very good. However, these numbers are largely inflated by his average (and poor on his standards) sophomore season where he had a 4.30 ERA (97 ERA+) over 169.2 innings.

Over the past two years however Castillo has been a great pitcher and could be the ace on a number of pitching staffs. In 2019, he pitched in 30 games with 190.2 innings with a 3.40 ERA (137 ERA+), 3.70 FIP, 1.143 WHIP, and passed 200 strikeouts (226) with a 10.7 K/9 rate. This also earned him an All-Star bid. In 2020, he beat most of those numbers over 12 starts and 70 innings with a 3.21 ERA (148 ERA+), 2.65 FIP, 1.229 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts at a 11.4 K/9 rate. It seems pretty clear that as he has been aging towards his prime years, he’s been getting better.

So, what should be expected of him in 2021? Baseball Reference has him projected from a 3.85 ERA over 173 innings, a 1.231 WHIP, and 196 strikeouts at a 10.2 K/9 rate. Fangraphs projects a moderately better season with a 3.67 ERA (3.69 FIP) over 184 innings, a 1.25 WHIP, and 210 strikeouts at a 10.3 K/9 rate. Both of these seem high as the metric numbers peak above his career averages with his number of strikeouts being the only “improving” statistic. Obviously it is hard to project a player at a low-3.00 ERA (Gerrit Cole is at 3.58 on Fangraphs for reference) but I think these numbers are erring too much on the side of caution.

What Would it Take to Get Castillo?

Unfortunately, comps are hard to come by for a teams #1 pitcher with 3 years of control remaining because that type of trade rarely (if ever) happens. However, we do have some data to go off of by looking at his value according to Obviously, this is by no means a perfect metric, but it does give a broad estimate of value we can go off of.

The median trade value (MTV) given to Castillo is at 114.8, which means they project he’ll contribute about 114.8 million dollars of player value over his next three years. This does consider a rough estimate over the next 3 years for Castillo to make a total salary of about $34.8 Million (I’m assuming with estimates of $5M, $11M, and $19M). With that 114.8 number in mind, this brings up the question: what is the value of the Yankees top prospects and/or young players?

Looking across the board we get the following:

Deivi Garcia = 31.1

Jasson Dominguez = 30.9

Jordan Montgomery = 29.6

Clarke Schmidt = 22.3

Clint Frazier = 22.1

This doesn’t bode well for a trade hitting a close value. You’d literally have to add 4 of those 5 players together to arrive close (the top four equal a combined 113.9 MTV). So, instead let’s try and look towards a recent trade of similar players.

For my research, the best I can come up with is the trade-deadline deal of Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox to the Chicago Cubs in 2017. In that trade the White Sox received a Top-15 prospect (Eloy Jimenez), a Top-75 prospect (Dylan Cease), and two throw-in prospects (Bryant Flete and Matt Rose). Let’s scale this back a bit because Quintana was traded with 3.5 years remaining while during a playoff push and say we’d need a Top-25 prospect, a Top-100 prospect, a lottery prospect, and a throw-in prospect.

And…the Yankees don’t have a Top-25 prospect. Dominguez is their highest (#48 on MLB) and both Schmidt and Deivi sit in the 80’s (#83 and #87 respectively). Ultimately, unless you’d be willing to trade Dominguez it seems like this type of deal would be a stretch.

Maybe tomorrow we can find a pitcher that the Yankees could afford?


Article By: Ethan Semendinger

Date Published: December 21st, 2020


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