Should the Yankees Trade for Luis Castillo?
Should the Yankees trade for Luis Castillo?
By Chris O’Connor
January 19, 2021
Luis Castillo is a 28 year-old starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Hot stove season is (hopefully) about to turn a corner as the calendar nears February and spring training awaits. The Yankees are rumored to have trade interest, but should they try to strike a deal for the righty? Some key questions:
Do the Yankees have a need for a starting pitcher?
In short, yes. Behind the great Gerrit Cole, the Yankees rotation thins considerably. Luis Severino is projected to return from Tommy John Surgery around June-July, but pitchers normally return to form a year after their return from the surgery. Severino, though immensely talented, has also struggled with injuries and inconsistency in his career (particularly in the playoffs), making it more of a hope than reality to rely on him to be the Number-2 guy for when he returns this season. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ are all free agents; Tanaka’s return is no guarantee, while James Paxton and J.A. Happ are likely to not return. Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Mike King, Devi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt are all options for the final three spots in the rotation, though all (except maybe Montgomery) are young and unproven at the major league level.
The Yankees are a team with real World Series hopes this year, especially with other American League powerhouses taking steps back. The Rays lost Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Astros lost Justin Verlander for the year and appear likely to lose George Springer to free agency, and other teams like the Athletics and Twins have failed to make any notable moves. The pennant is well up for grabs and the Yankees need to seize the opportunity to pounce.
How nice would a rotation of Cole, Castillo, Severino, Tanaka, and Montgomery look, with depth pieces in the young guys ready to fill in when the injury bug inevitably strikes?
Is Castillo all that good?
Castillo has pitched for the Reds for the last four years and in 90 career starts has pitched to a 3.62 ERA with 10 K’s/9. He was okay in his first season as a starter, pitching to a 4.30 ERA and a 4.32 FIP, but has improved over the past two years. He has pitched to a 3.40 and 3.21 ERA in 2019 and 2020 and is one of the hardest throwing starters in all of baseball with an average fastball velocity of 97.4 mph in 2020.
We know how much the Yankees love velocity in their pitchers, so that certainly can’t hurt. His strikeout rate has risen from 8.8 in 2018 to 10.7 in 2019 and 11.4 in 2020.
What I love about Castillo is his walk rate with a career average of 3.2/9 and 3.1/9 in 2020 which ranked a little above average across the MLB. Strikeouts are great, but many times strikeout artists sacrifice control to ring guys up, and this hurts them in the one area that matters to pitchers: run prevention. I really like that Castillo’s walk rates are above average, even if they are not incredible. For someone who throws as hard as he does and strikes out as many guys, not giving guys free passes is huge. This is especially true in today’s era of increased home runs where one swing can change a game.
What it might take to give up?
Many people will look at the Blake Snell and Yu Darvish trades, and I think that is a good start. To get Snell, the Padres had to give up a consensus Top-20 prospect in the sport in righty Luis Patino. They also gave up a former top prospect who has struggled at the major league level in 25-year-old catcher Francisco Mejia. They also gave up their third round draft pick this year in Cole Wilcox and a Top-15 prospect of theirs in Blake Hunt. Snell was so attractive not just for his talent but the fact that he is on a team friendly contract with 3 years and $39 million remaining.
The Darvish trade was more of a salary dump by the Cubs. To get Darvish, who finished second in the Cy Young voting this year, the Padres gave up an average starter in Zach Davies and four non-top ten prospects who are all, at best, years away from the big leagues. Darvish, however, is on the books for $59 million over the next three years, which I think is an entirely reasonable salary for a guy who might have been the best pitcher in the NL in 2020. The Cubs, however, just wanted to get rid of his salary.
I think Castillo would cost a return more similar to Snell than Darvish in large part due to his salary and durability. Unlike Snell, Castillo does not come with significant injury concerns having started more than 30 games in 2018 and 2019 and was on pace for that in 2020. He is set to earn a little over $4 million in 2021 and is under team control through 2023, when after the year he is set to hit free agency.
If the Yankees have to give up something like Deivi Garcia or Clarke Schmidt (not both) along with Clint Frazier, possibly Miguel Andujar, and one or two lower level prospects, I would strongly consider it. It seems that the Reds are asking for Gleyber Torres. That just might be a first step in a negotiation process.
Castillo is a proven commodity for a team with World Series aspirations. He is under team control for the next three years and has proven to be a talented, durable starter in the big leagues. The Yankees have the depth to cover for the loss of Clint Frazier and possibly Andujar as well as many talented young starters in the system that can withstand the loss of either Garcia or Schmidt.
The Yankees have not been to a World Series since 2009. They have such a talented team that is just a few pieces away, if that. I would love to see this core win a title before their primes are up, and trading for a guy like Castillo would go a long way toward accomplishing that. Some trades just don’t work for many different reasons. There is no guarantee of anything in Major League Baseball. Trading for a fireballer just entering his prime who has above average control, durability, and three years of team control is a move that, even if it does not work out, is something the Yankees would not regret doing.
I want to see the Yankees win a World Series.
The time is now to get their guy.