Six years ago, when the Cincinnati Reds were in the middle of a rebuild, they traded a middle of the rotation starter for a young prospect in Luis Castillo.
Castillo broke out and developed into a two-time All-Star, leading the Reds rotation for most of his career. Despite his success, the Reds are moving on toward another rebuild.
The Reds traded Castillo to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night for four minor leaguers, including the Mariners’ top two prospects, according to Baseball America’s rankings. Castillo is a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, but the Reds hoped to maximize the return of a Castillo trade by dealing him with a year-and-a-half of team control left.
Castillo said he didn’t want to leave Cincinnati, but he understood the nature of the Reds’ rebuild.
“It’s been a beautiful experience,” Castillo said via interpreter Jorge Merlos. “The personnel, the team, everyone that I’ve been able to make some type of connection with. To have my name in fans’ mouths and have them cheering me on and say things about me, it’s something that I’ll treasure forever. I won’t forget about that.”
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Castillo was the top starting pitcher on the trade market, and the Reds landed a package of prospects to match that. The Reds acquired shortstop Noelvi Marte, shortstop Edwin Arroyo, right-handed pitcher Levi Stoudt and right-handed pitcher Andrew Moore.
Marte and Arroyo are the Mariners’ top two prospects by Baseball America’s rankings. Stoudt ranks No. 5 in the Mariners’ system by MLB.com.
“Luis is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever come across in this clubhouse,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said. “Great guy, great pitcher. Family man. Just really great to have him here for as long as we did. But at the end of the day, we had to make ourselves better for the long haul. We felt these four players are going to help us do that.”
The 20-year-old Marte, ranked as the No. 47 overall prospect by Baseball America, is hitting .275 at High-A with a .363 on-base percentage. He has 19 doubles, 15 homers and 55 RBI in 85 games with 13 stolen bases.
Baseball America wrote in its scouting report: “Marte has the potential to be a power-hitting, all-star shortstop if he cleans up his defense. Even if he moves to third base, he still projects to be a middle-of-the-order cornerstone.” Marte signed for $1.55 million as an international free agent in 2018.
Since June 22, Marte is hitting .368 with six homers and five stolen bases as one of the younger players in High-A. While he just missed out on a spot in the Future’s Game, Marte will become a top-tier prospect in the Reds’ organization.
“He has got a chance to be an impact middle of the order bat that can play shortstop,” Krall said.
Arroyo, 18, is rated by Baseball America as the 48th-best prospect. In 87 games at Single-A, the second-round pick in 2018 hit .316 with 19 doubles, seven triples, 13 homers, 67 RBI, and 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts.
“Edwin Arroyo, same thing (as Marte),” Krall said. “Impact bat, power-speed combo that has a chance to be a good defensive shortstop.”
The 24-year-old Stoudt is 6-6 with a 5.18 ERA in 18 Double-A starts this year. He has 82 strikeouts and 22 walks in 87 innings.
“Levi Stoudt is a Double-A starter,” Krall said. “We saw him in spring. He’s a guy we liked potentially as part of the Winker package. It was great to be able to get him. He’s got a chance to be a Major League starter.”
Moore, a 14th-round pick in 2021, has posted a 1.95 ERA in 25 relief appearances at Single-A with 58 strikeouts and 17 walks in 32 1/3 innings.
“Andrew Moore is just starting to pitch,” Krall said. “He was drafted last year – explosive, explosive stuff. Fastball is up to 102 with a plus slider. It’s trying to get him to harness it and be the best pitcher he can be.”
The Reds had more than a dozen teams interested in Castillo, including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Texas Rangers had two scouts at his last start. The Reds’ front office picked the Mariners’ package four days ahead of the trade deadline because they’re adding a few highly-rated prospects to their farm system, including two top shortstops.
It’s the second time the Reds completed a major deal with the Mariners this year. They traded Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to Seattle during spring training for outfielder Jake Fraley, pitcher Justin Dunn, and prospects Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips. Williamson is now at Triple-A and Phillips is pitching at Double-A.
“We tried to get the best players we could get back,” Krall said. “We felt that this was the best return we could get for Luis and the best we could do. We really like all four players and think all four players have a chance to be potential big leaguers.”
Even though he was expecting the trade, it was an emotional day for Castillo. As he reflected on what Cincinnati has meant to him, he cited taking his daughters to the water park and taking photos with fans at the super market.
Castillo said he’s looking forward to pitching in a playoff race and joining a few former teammates in Seattle, but he was disappointed he couldn’t have more postseason success in Cincinnati.
“I’ve always had this mindset of I’m going to go out there and give it all my best,” Castillo said. “There’s nothing I can do any different than what I do normally. Now that I’m going to a different team. The people will be able to see me and see what the real La Piedra is.”