Blue Jays: An underrated ace may be available- Worth the chase?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 26: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Minnesota Twins on September 26, 2020 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 26: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Minnesota Twins on September 26, 2020 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds have reportedly discussed Star pitcher Luis Castillo in trade talks. Does it make sense for the Blue Jays to pursue the Reds righty?

The Cincinnati Reds went all in last offseason.  After acquiring Trevor Bauer from Cleveland at the 2019 trade deadline, they went on to sign Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Wade Miley, Jose Iglesias , Shogo Akiyama and others during free agency.

The Reds’ front office was in a similar spot that the Blue Jays’ front office is in this offseason.  They had a promising young core of players, had money to spend, and were looking to bring in quality vets to help speed up their rebuild and thrust them into contention.

This strategy worked as the Reds went 31-29 and were able to secure the 7th seed in the National League.  Unfortunately for the Reds, the Covid shortened season has seemed to hit them hard, and they are now one of many cash strapped teams that are going to have to make some tough calls this offseason in order to be able to make payroll work in 2021. One of those tough decisions may be to trade one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Luis Castillo.

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Jon Heyman reported that Castillo was being discussed in trade talks by the Reds.  This is something I think the Jays should jump all over, as we know this year’s free agent pitching class is a weak one, and once you get past Trevor Bauer the list becomes pretty unimpressive, with Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi, and former Blue Jay Taijuan Walker being some of the more talented names on it.

The Jays have a huge need for starting pitching, and not just inning eaters, they need impact arms who can win them big regular season games, and perform in the postseason as well.  Castillo would be a guy that fits these qualifications, as over the last two seasons he’s become one of the best pitchers in baseball.  In 2019, he broke out going 15-8 while posting a 3.40 ERA, a 1.143 WHIP and a 10.7 K/9 ratio on route to making his first All-Star appearance.  He followed this up with another great year in 2020 posting a 3.21 ERA, an 11.4 K/9 ratio, and a 148 ERA+, helping the Reds make the postseason for the first time since 2013.

Castillo is just 28 years old, and entering his first year of arbitration.  He’s set to make 4.4 million dollars next year, so along with being an excellent pitcher, he’s still in his prime and has three years of control left where he’ll be relatively cheap.  Because of this, the Reds will be looking for a huge return if they’re going to trade him.  Cincinnati may be cash strapped, but with Castillo being set to make only 4.4 million dollars next year you have to figure that they don’t have to trade him this offseason.  With there being no pressure to move him they’ll have to be blown away by an offer in order to trade him.

I saw a projected trade for Blake Snell on the other day and it had the Jays giving up number three prospect Jordan Groshans and number five prospect Alek Manoah along with Danny Jansen for the Rays’ lefty.  I’m bringing this up because the Jays would probably have to give up a similar package for Castillo.  Castillo and Snell both have three years remaining on their current deals and even though Snell is a better pitcher with a longer track record, he’s set to make 10.5, 12.5 and 16 million dollars over the next three years.

This should be more than Castillo makes in arbitration, putting them closer in value.  If the Reds trade Castillo, it’s going to be for a hefty package, but if the Jays can manage to get a deal done without giving up any of their core major leaguers (Vlad, Bo, Gurriel Jr, Biggio, Hernandez, Pearson and probably Austin Martin too) then I think it would be well worth it to acquire an ace who is still arbitration eligible for the next three seasons.

Adding Castillo won’t close the door on other additions the Jays have been looking at this offseason either.  The Jays could very well trade for Castillo and still sign a big ticket free agent like Realmuto or LeMahieu because of how little they’ll have to pay Castillo.  Sure, giving up guys like Groshans or Manoah would suck, as they’re super promising players with bright futures, but when you have a chance to add a sure thing like Castillo, you gotta make that move.

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Overall this is a very weak free agent pitching class.  The Blue Jays need to add arms to their rotation, and preferably impact arms.  If they’re going to do this, it’s going to have to be via a trade, and I think Castillo would be a great fit in the Jays’ rotation next season.