Dipoto details why Mariners made Luis Castillo trade, their rotation plans

The Mariners made a massive splash ahead of the 2022 MLB trade deadline with the addition of Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds, and that move has a major impact on the team in terms of their playoff contention both for this season and next, but also with how the starting rotation will look going forward.

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During his weekly visit with The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto shared insight into why Castillo was his target and what it means for the pitch staff down the stretch this season.

First and foremost, why did the Mariners trade a pretty substantial prospect package for the 29-year-old All-Star?

“We think he’s one of the best pitchers in the league and has been for a while now,” Dipoto said. “… I believe this is accurate to the day, but Luis Castillo since 2019 is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball to run a ground ball rate above 50%, a home run rate of less than one per nine innings and a strikeout rate of better than one per inning.”

Dipoto said Castillo is in “the prime of his career” and exactly the kind of pitcher the Mariners needed for both this year’s playoff run as well as the 2023 season.

“We thought this was the type of guy that gives us the energy and really the push over these last two months and then into 2023. That really appealed to us,” he said.

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As for how long Castillo has been on Seattle’s radar, Dipoto told Salk that Castillo was someone the Mariners initially targeted when trading James Paxton to the New York Yankees after the 2018 season as they kicked off the rebuild.

Most analysts considered Castillo to be the top starting pitcher on the trade market, which Dipoto agreed with. But how big of a gap was there between Castillo and the next-best guy?

“We thought it was considerable,” he said. “… Luis Castillo fit every criteria we were looking to achieve, and he’s doing it right now. He’s 29 years old. And minimally, we know he’s got another year with the Mariners after this and and our hope is that he’ll enjoy his stay in Seattle and choose to stay for a little longer.”

So an extension for Castillo, whose contract expires after 2023, is on the table?

“For sure. And I think that would be the case were he traded to any of the other 28 teams because you don’t get very many opportunities to access pitchers like Luis Castillo, especially to access them when they’re in their late 20s or early 30s, ” Dipoto said. “As a general rule, these types of pitchers are either extended much earlier in their career or they hit the free agent market and there is a bonanza on hand. So being able to access them via the trade market on year-to-year contracts is a very rare thing and we felt like we had to take advantage. And hopefully now, like we have with some of our other starting pitchers in recent years, (we can) stretch the contract out to make sure that we keep him in Seattle for as long as we can.”

As for the trade itself, the Mariners gave up shortstops Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo and right-handed pitchers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore. Marte and Arroyo are each top 100 prospects on both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America while Stoudt was one of Seattle’s 10 best prospects according to both publications.

Dipoto acknowledged it was a lot to trade away but said that the Mariners actually gave up less than the Reds were initially seeking.

“We did give up a fair bit to bring Luis to Seattle and we understood in the 11th hour when we made that deal that we were not to push the button, he was going to wind up elsewhere, and we weren’t willing to take that chance,” he said.

Dipoto said the Mariners tried for weeks to make a deal that involved just one of Marte and Arroyo, but they weren’t able to get it done. Despite trading off two top prospects, Dipoto insists that the Mariners’ farm system – and overall organizational depth – is in a very good place.

“The reality is that’s why you build a farm system, and that’s why you build depth, and that’s why you extend contracts to major league level. Right now as the season has gone along, we’re the second-youngest team in baseball, and contrary to popular belief we didn’t just empty our farm system to pay for this team,” he said. “Today we have a very young team. We still have what we believe is a strong farm system… and we are now in a position to control our own destiny to go to the postseason with a team that is largely under (team) control moving forward. So all of those things really factored in. We felt like our contention window is open and we would be irresponsible if we didn’t walk through it if the opportunity exists.”

What next for the rotation?

Castillo joins a Mariners team that has had the same five-man starting rotation since mid-May in Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and rookie George Kirby.

What does Castillo’s inclusion in that group mean for those other five?

“We knew that upon acquiring Luis last (Friday) that minimally we were going to need six starters the next two trips through because of the split doubleheader against the Angels on Saturday,” Dipoto said. “So with the days off and the split doubleheader, everybody will pitch on their sixth day.”

The Mariners “won’t yet make a determination for how to shuffle the staff around” after that, but Dipoto did offer some insight into what could happen. A lot of it involves Kirby and managing his innings in his first MLB season.

“I do think we’re leaning against running with six starters. We may do something along the lines of a piggyback where two starters share a game,” Dipoto said. “That’s something that we would like to do to try to help George manage the innings total.”

As for just moving one of those six starters to the bullpen to use as a “long guy,” that’s unlikely to happen right now.

“I don’t think we’ll do that because we don’t want to shorten the starters up. Part of the appeal in acquiring Luis was to make sure that we had the kind of thunder that you need in the season’s last two months and depth in your rotation,” Dipoto said. “And if we shorten those guys up, we’re probably not going to achieve that. So we’ll be creative and I think we’ll do the right thing. But we want to make sure that all six of our starters are getting ample chance to contribute.”

You can listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show from Thursday morning at this link or in the podcast player below.

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