Astros among teams interested in Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo is among the league’s most high-profile commercial candidates. The hard-throwing right-hander is having another superb season and with a year and a half still in club control he’s a good bet to move from the 34-55 Reds to a competitor in the next few weeks.

Virtually every win-now team imagines checking with Castillo, who would enhance each rotation. The Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mariners and Twins have all been linked with the Cincinnati starter in recent weeks. Erik Boland from Newsday (Twitter link) and Sweeny Murti from WFAN (on twitter) both report that the Astros are also in the mix. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman adds that teams like the Mets and Padres, who were linked to Castillo early in the process, prioritize offensive help rather than a punch starter.

However, even teams with enviable depth of rotation will at least miss Castillo’s tires in the coming weeks. Houston’s interest is indicative as they arguably have the best starting prospects in the game. Astros starters rank second in the majors in ERA (3.15) and innings pitched (505), while ranking ninth in strikeout percentage (23.6%). This works despite zero contributions Lance McCullers Jr.perhaps the team’s best pitcher in 2021 as he was rehabilitated from a forearm problem.

Few teams could easily withstand an injury from a pitcher of McCullers’ caliber, but Houston’s rotation has thrived. All six Astros starters eclipsing 30 innings this season have ERAs of 4.08 or less. Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez own under 3.00 marks. Christian Javier and Luis Garcia are in the mid 3.00s with strong prank totals while Jake Odorizzi (3.38) and Jose Urquidy (4.08) have solid results despite the lack of large hint sums.

With McCullers also expected to return sometime after the All-Star Break, the Astros certainly don’t need to add another starter. However, Castillo’s performance is impressive enough that they will join virtually every other contender to meet with Reds general manager Nick Krall and his staff. Despite fielding in a hitter-friendly home field, Castillo has a 3.49 ERA with an above-average strikeout rate of 26.8% and an elite grounder percentage of 55.2% over the past three and a half seasons. That includes a personal best 2.77 ERA through 13 starts this year. Castillo’s swinging strike and groundball numbers are down a bit, but he was still better than the league average on both counts.

Castillo has been particularly excellent of late and is in top form as the August 2 deadline nears. He has allowed one or fewer runs in each of his last four outings and has hit 33 walks for nine in his last 27 innings. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal this morning examined Castillo’s strong recent run and noted that the right-hander has been working with the Cincinnati coaching staff to tweak the grip of his four-seam fastball this year.

Adding to his excellent results, the 29-year-old would be an extremely affordable pickup for teams to take on. He is playing on a salary of $7.35 million this season, of which approximately $2.9 million remains to be paid out after the deadline. He should be in line for a decent arbitration raise next winter, but even a 2023 salary in the $12-15 million range would be a stark bargain for a pitcher of his caliber.

It is widely expected that Cincinnati will submit bids for both Castillo and rotation partners Tyler Mahle, who is also in his penultimate year of managing the club. SNY’s Andy Martino reports that talks have not yet started in detail on at least the former and suggests that these discussions will accelerate following the upcoming amateur draft. The Reds are sure to set a high price once discussions start in earnest. Heyman wrote earlier this week that Cincinnati is looking for one of the Yankees’ best shortstop prospects. Anthony Volpe or Oswald Perazato get Castillo talks going. Heyman last night suggested that New York remains firmly against a split with either player even after the loss Luis Severino put on the injured list because of a strained leg.

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