Luis Castillo came. Luis Castillo vanished. A rumor zipped around the internet Sunday that the Reds ace was on the brink of being traded to the Yankees.
Reds GM Nick Krall, in texts to the team’s beat writers, extinguished that calling it “completely false.” A Yankees official termed the report, “BS.”
So let’s cross Castillo off — for now. For Krall also told reporters, “We intend to have him as a member of our rotation for 2021.” “Intend” is an interesting word that provides wiggle room.
But Cincinnati is in a watered down NL Central, just made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and knows how horribly it would play with its fan base to trade its most talented prime-age star.
Still, teams — especially those in smaller markets — should always be asking about their best assets: 1. Can we compete for a title in this player’s control period? 2. Will this asset finish his control period here or eventually be traded? 3. Will the asset’s trade value ever be higher than now: if done right, a $1.25 of return can be obtained for $1 of talent? If answered no, no and no, then why shouldn’t the player be available?
Which brings us to the Yankees, who I believe should be willing to pay $1.25 in return for the right $1 starter. This is no longer the Yankee way. They believe discipline and logic and piling up good decisions will be rewarded with a sustained championship-contending window. Got it.
Except some logic has to die with how win-now these Yankees are. They can no longer point to the other superpower Dodgers and say they haven’t won since 1988. They can no longer expect the Mets to be their meek Queens neighbor. Hi there, Steve Cohen. They cannot expect Gerrit Cole to retain this level of performance for too many more years. Once you pay for Cole, you are in it to win it. NOW.
The Yanks, though, could look at their division and assess no one yet taking the Blue Jays’ money, the Red Sox still in rebuild-ish mode, the Rays having lost Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, and calculate winning the 2021 AL East in probably seven out of 10 times. So why extend now?
Because that was the theory last year and the Rays won the AL East. Because they were in Game 2 with a Deivi Garcia/J.A. Happ hybrid rather than a no-brainer option.
They can see if Corey Kluber can be their No. 2 to Cole at the outset or if Luis Severino can be that when he returns around July 1 following Tommy John surgery. A thread-the-needle scenario exists in which Cole, Kluber and Severino are backed by the talent and depth of Garcia, Domingo German, Michael King, Jordan Montgomery and Clark Schmidt.
The more likely scenario is they need a starter by the trade deadline. Why wait? Especially if they can find someone cost efficient with years of control. Castillo falls into that category as do the following, but 1. I have heard none of the below starters are available, and 2. If and when they are, starter-needy teams with better farm systems than the Yankees, such as the Blue Jays, Rays and Twins, could beat them. Still, the Yanks should have a $1.25 available as enticement for:
1. German Marquez, Rockies
The righty is underrated, durable and doesn’t turn 26 until February. His killer breaking stuff would play even better away from altitude. Owed either three years at $36 million or four years at $49.5 million if his 2024 option is picked up and counts $8.6 million toward the luxury tax.
Colorado is known for lack of movement in the trade market, so don’t expect this. But I think the Rockies are built wrong. To deal with the physical, tactical disadvantage of playing a mile high, the Rockies should be the $130 million payroll Rays, filling their organization with power arms and their roster with versatility and depth. A financially top-heavy roster with Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story keeps homegrown stars the fans like, but prevents adequate depth all around. They need to deepen and disperse their funds.
If I am the Yanks, I at least offer a package of Garcia or Schmidt, Clint Frazier or Miguel Andjuar and high-ceiling pitching prospects Luis Gil or Luis Medina and see if that is close to $1.25.
2. Kyle Hendricks, Cubs
All the choices on this list are from the NL, many from the weak NL Central, so consider the competition. But think of Hendricks as a righty Jimmy Key with durability — a savvy artist with fortitude. He has three years at $43.5 million left or four at $58 million if his 2024 option is picked up and costs $14 million toward the luxury tax payroll (so the Cubs would have to take Adam Ottavino as a financial counterweight if the Yanks hoped to stay under the $210 million threshold). The Cubs would rather move Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras and still try to win the NL Central with Hendricks as the ace.
3. Pablo Lopez, Marlins
The Marlins love their rotation top three of Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez and Lopez. But they are going to have difficulty recruiting offense. Offer a deal built around Frazier or Andujar plus Estevan Florial. Lopez might not be a No. 2 starter, but he is durable with elite makeup and strike-throwing capabilities, and not even arbitration eligible until next offseason.
4. Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Milwaukee has one of the majors’ worst farm systems. Woodruff is one of the few assets to help deepen the talent base. His stuff stands with Marquez and Castillo, but without the durability or consistency. So he should bring less in return. Still, he turns 28 in February, has four years of control with those high-end weapons and is due just $3.275 million this season.
5. Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks
Does Arizona look at the Dodgers and Padres and think it will be a while until it can win the NL West? Will Gallen be part of that club? He is not even arbitration eligible until next season. The righty has among the best inventories of pitches as he overwhelms with not just stuff, but diversity.