What Luis Castillo trade means for Mariners all-in and Reds rebuild

The Reds finally moved their ace, Luis Castillo, on Friday night, sending the 29-year-old right-hander to the Seattle Mariners for a package that included Seattle’s top prospect, shortstop Noelvi Marte. Everyone expected Castillo to be traded before the August 2 deadline, and the deal did not disappoint, confirming that the Reds are in full rebuilding mode and the Mariners are looking forward to it.

The Mariners sent 21-year-old Marte to Cincinnati, along with shortstop Edwin Arroyo and right-handers Andrew Moore and Levi Stoudt. Arroyo, in particular, is seen as a quality prospect, and all but Moore were on Keith Law’s top 20 list of Mariners prospects before the season. In return, Seattle got the consensus best pitcher on the market, a frontline starter to pair with the winner of the 2021 AL Cy Young Robbie Ray.

Meanwhile, the Reds… who already traded Tyler Naquin to the Mets on Thursday – continues to tear down a big league team that is 38-61, and that record is actually quite impressive, considering they opened the season 3-22.

Athleticismthe panel of MLB experts weigh in on what the trade means for Reds, Sailors and for Castillo.

Andy McCullough, MLB national writer

Where were you in the summer of 2001? I was about to start high school. Seattle baseball operations president Jerry Dipoto had just retired from pitching to take up a front office job for the Rockies. Scott Servais was trying to hang around as receiver for the Astros. And the Seattle Mariners were running away with American League West. A lot has changed in the decades since: my hair is getting grayer and grayer every day. Dipoto and Servais are in charge in Seattle. And the Mariners, for the first time since that 116-win season in 2001, are in position to reach the playoffs and end the longest playoff drought in North American sports.

The club only cemented their comfortable spot in the American League with a trade for Castillo. To acquire Castillo, the Mariners gutted part of their farming system to improve the starting rotation for 2022 and 2023. The team also provided more clarity on the Juan Soto contest.

Coins are coming off the board now, dominoes are crashing as Tuesday’s trade deadline nears. The Yankees snatch André Benintendi Wednesday. Castillo, the best pitcher on the market, is now gone. Seattle is unlikely to have enough potential capital to acquire Soto. But the fathers, Cardinals and Dodgers are still well placed to take Soto out of the Nationals — if those clubs are willing to pay the price for Washington general manager Mike Rizzo.

The Yankees also have a pretty strong farming system. The team had identified its rotation as a potential area for improvement. With Castillo gone, will the Bombers focus on the Oakland starter Frankie Montas? Or will they consider the price of Soto? We will know the answers in the next few days. For now, people in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest can brace themselves for the drought to end and the playoffs to continue.

C. Trent Rosecrans, Reds writer

As happy as Dipoto may be to acquire Castillo, there are two people in the Mariners clubhouse who may be even more excited – jesse winker and Eugenio Suarez. Why? Because they know exactly what the Mariners are getting at Castillo. They get an ace, and an ace that thrives on big times and dominated in one of baseball’s toughest environments at Great American Ball Park.

Put Castillo in Seattle? Phew.

Winker and Suárez, like Castillo, were beloved in Cincinnati. Still, the team signaled its direction early in the season when it sent the pair to Seattle at the start of spring training. The Reds’ aim in 2022 wasn’t to win, it was to get rid of the wage bill and look ahead to 2024 when Joey Votto and mike mustakas are off the payroll and off the roster.

The Reds had trade chips and bolstered their system with their trades with the Mariners earlier this season, but that should see the Reds soar up the farm system rankings. Castillo has yet another year in control, so the comeback had to be massive and by any measure, he is.

The deal is headlined by a pair of shortstops, Marte and Arroyo. Shortstop was already the Reds’ strongest position on the farm with Elly De La Cruz, Jose Barrero and Matt McLain, but now it’s even deeper. The thing is, you can never have too many shortstops. You know who else started out as a shortstop? Pretty much every other right-handed big leaguer. Again, you can never, ever have too many shortstops.

Right-hander Stoudt is a good starting pitcher prospect and a scout texted me that Moore was the sleeper of the deal, a big arm who hit 102 mph with a slider plus.

Will all these players make it? It’s hard to say. But for a team that wasn’t going to want to sign Castillo long-term, that’s spoils and exactly what the Reds needed to do to maximize a chip like Castillo.

Mariners Writer Corey Brock

The Mariners entered Friday’s game in Houston with the best ERA in baseball in their last 55 games (2.96). So why add Castillo, 29?

First, this team feels it has a real shot at ending its 21-year playoff drought. It must have made a lot of noise. It’s not Soto, but it’s the best arm available. And it signals this: The Mariners, who recently enjoyed a 14-game winning streak, are not kidding. They are serious about getting into the playoff dance. Secondly, the club know they have to watch the workload of two of their best young starters, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby.

Noelvi Marte is considered Seattle’s best prospect. (Larry Goren/Four Sewing Images via AP)

Castillo is an ace in every sense of the word, and he should thrive going from the Reds’ baseball stadium to the spacious T-Mobile Park. He’s under the team’s control until 2023. Castillo’s four-seam fastball (.125 batting average against) and his change (.196) have been nearly untouchable this season. The return is steep, as these things can be, and signals that the Mariners are really going for it. Marte was the club’s best prospect and Arroyo would probably have been their No. 2 prospect. He shares the Cal League at 18.

Eno Sarris, MLB national writer

In Castillo, the Mariners get an ace. Since entering the league in 2017, only one qualified starter has had as high a rushing rate as he has shown and put out more hitters – so he is able to minimize the damage and keep hitters out of base paths. He has power and command and was able to keep the ball in the park in terrible park for pitchers — he’ll appreciate getting out of Cincinnati.

It’s a complete arsenal. This year he’s flattened his four seams and is showing the best fastball ride of his career, to go with a plus slider and an elite shift. Being able to play both fastballs against each other gives him a true four-pitch mix with command. He’s one of 15 pitchers in the majors this year with above-average tricks and pitches on three or more pitches.

There is always a debate about what makes a real ace. Maybe Castillo is on the wrong side for some, and so they’ll talk about how important transportation is to the Reds and consider the idea that the Mariners may have paid too much. But a guy with that kind of velocity, and that kind of forward command of a big arsenal? He looks like a team leader and he’ll change the top of Seattle’s rotation anyway. Probably worth the outlook.

Stephen Nesbitt, MLB national writer

After weeks of speculation over where Castillo would land, the answer was not New York, not Los Angeles, but Seattle. The Mariners announced themselves as major players at this trade deadline by acquiring the best starting pitcher known to be available. Castillo immediately elevates the Mariners rotation: He and Robbie Ray will be a one-two dandy in the playoffs. Castillo has a 3.22 career ERA at home, though Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati is tied with Coors Field for being the worst pitching park in the majors, according to Statcast Park Factors. Now his home ballpark is T-Mobile Park which is considered the best ballpark in baseball for pitchers. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the difference.

The wave of young pitchers the Mariners have at or near major league level — from Gilbert to Kirby to Matt Brash and Emerson Hancock and more – represent a bright future, but Dipoto acknowledged that the best play at the moment was to reinforce the rotation with a veteran arm. The price was high, as the Mariners parted ways with three of their top five prospects, but there’s reason to believe Castillo will provide enough value over the next 15 months to make the cost worth it, even if he’s going elsewhere in free agency.

(Photo: Rick Scooteri/USA Today)

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