The Texas Rangers have been busy on the free agent front, but could look to the Cincinnati Reds to find starting rotation upgrades on the trade front.
Texas has already made significant strides in their rebuild this off-season, all via the free agent market.
While the additions of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien bolster a struggling young offense, the one thing lacking is still in the starting rotation.
Jon Gray is an incredible pickup for the price (four years, $56 million), but the Texas Rangers still need some rotation help.
As it stands right now, the starting rotation consists of Gray, Dane Dunning, and Taylor Hearn. The final two rotation spots are still up in the air but should see some heavy competition this spring between Kolby Allard, Glenn Otto, A.J. Alexy and others.
If the Texas Rangers want to put an exclamation on the offseason, they need to acquire at least one, if not two more starting pitchers.
Texas Rangers desperately need pitching help
While we debated the potential free agent acquisition of two southpaws earlier, we have yet to speak on the potential deals on the trade market.
This leads us to a report out in early December by Jon Morosi, who says the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds have had discussions regarding the three big starters in their rotation: Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle.
We’ll be taking a look at each of the three, what they bring to the table, their contractual situations, as well as what a potential deal might look like if the Texas Rangers go that direction.
Texas Rangers could turn to the Cincinnati Reds in a trade for pitching help
We’ll start with the ace of the Reds’ staff, right-hander Luis Castillo.
Out of the three, Castillo would be the toughest to pry away from the Reds because of his consistent big league success.
Like I mentioned before, Luis Castillo has been the ace of the Reds staff since 2019, when the then 26-year old went 15-8 and appeared in the All-Star game. While Castillo’s best season came in 2019, he still has been consistently successful in the two years following.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020, Castillo went 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA over 12 games started. Over his 70 innings, Castillo allowed 31 runs (25 earned), giving up five home runs, but had an 89/24 strikeout to walk ratio. He ended the season with an above-average ERA+ of 153 and a 2.65 FIP.
He took a step back in 2021, though, posting a 3.98 ERA over 33 starts. In his 187.2 innings pitched, Castillo led the league in walks (75), giving up 19 homers and striking out 192. His ERA+ dropped to 120 and FIP increased to 3.75.
Even with mixed results the last couple of seasons, the talent is still there. Castillo has one of the hardest-breaking sinkers in all of baseball, sitting anywhere between 95-98 miles per hour. He also features a really good changeup, four-seamer, and a slider.
Digging into his advanced metrics, Luis Castillo ranks highly in Fastball Velocity and Barrel Percentage and is above-average in Chase Rate, Whiff Percentage, xERA, xwOBA, and Average Exit Velocity. In 2021, Castillo found himself in the top 7% in the league in Barrel %, meaning he prevented opposing batters from squaring the ball up and getting the ball elevated.
Regarding Castillo’s contract, he is second-year arbitration-eligible, meaning he will have two seasons of control after the 2022 season. He is extremely affordable, as well, which makes him an even more difficult piece to acquire. Last season, Luis Castillo made $4.2 million and is projected to make $7.6 million in 2022 by MLB Trade Rumors.
The Texas Rangers would have their hands full trying to trade for Castillo, but he would be a worthy investment for a team trying to come out of a rebuild.
In this situation, the Cincinnati Reds struggled with organizational depth in 2021, meaning a package of quantity over quality could be had. However, I don’t want to screw the Reds over either, and with great middle infield depth, why not trade from our surplus.
Here’s my proposed trade for Luis Castillo.
I believe this could at least be a starting point with the Reds, assuming they value the improving performances from White, Foscue, and Harris in 2021. Glenn Otto gives them a controllable, major-league-ready starter until 2028, as well as a good prospect haul.
He’s the ace-type pitcher the Rangers could pair with Jon Gray and make a really formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.
Will they bite? Maybe, but let’s talk about a familiar face to the AL West.