Managing a baseball roster is equal parts planning with what you have and managing the unexpected. A time or twelve each season, that means shuffling the deck due to major injury, and despite the best laid plans, it sometimes happens due to players simply not living up to their expectations.
You plan as best you can with the best you’ve got, and then react with contingencies as quickly as you can when a curveball gets thrown your way.
The Cincinnati Reds and GM Nick Krall are planning to have Luis Castillo parked atop their rotation for the 2021 season, and beyond. Anyone in Krall’s position, with an arm like Castillo, would do the same. With a 124 ERA+ to his name in his still-brief career, Castillo is finally set to make above the league-minimum for the first time in 2021, and comes with a trio of years of team control remaining, aspects that are vital to any club in baseball, let alone teams operating on shoestring budgets more often than not.
There are 30 MLB franchises, and the GM of each has a phone number. They all know one another, they all do business with one another, and even if doing business today isn’t something they’re interested in doing, simply ignoring a peer isn’t exactly the best way to set up any future business they’d like to pull off down the road. So, when one of them calls, they answer. They listen. Each knows what their plan is, they see how this proposal would impact said plan, and they react accordingly.
If one of them calls and asks about a trade for Luis Castillo, tell ‘em the truth - he’s a cheap, young star, one around whom we’re building, one who’s been 24% better than his peers at what he does, and since we’re going to do our best to win games in 2021, anything less than a direct replacement for all that is a non-starter. You tell ‘em you need a cheap, young star, one around whom you can build, one who’s been roughly 24% better than his peers at what he does, and since you’re going to to do your best to win games in 2021, he needs to be a big leaguer, not a down-the-road prospect. And if that player isn’t a pitcher, we want more than just him, since cheap, proven pitching is the single hardest thing to find on the planet.
That isn’t shopping Luis Castillo, that’s planning around Luis Castillo and letting the entire world know just how much. Given the flurry of information, disinformation, and fan-hearts with dreams out there, it’s sometimes difficult to discern which is which. Such was the case this weekend, as rumors about the New York Yankees and Castillo ran rampant before being summarily shot down by Krall late Sunday evening. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon relayed that, with Krall saying the rumors Castillo was being shopped were ‘completely false.’
#reds GM Nick Krall has poured water on any Luis Castillo trade rumor with the Yankees.— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) January 18, 2021
“They are completely false. We intend to have him as a member of our rotation for 2021.”
That sentiment was buttressed by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman this morning, however, with a bit juicier nugget.
Reds asked the Yankees for SS Gleyber Torres plus in Castillo talks as just said on @MLBNetwork. That makes sense as both are young stars, and Cincinnati needs a SS. Yankees said no. Also not a surprise, Now Castillo very likely stays in Cincy.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2021
If Heyman is to be believed here, which is certainly a question worth asking, it’s easy to walk right through this scenario. A team calls about a young, cheap, controllable ace, the hardest damn thing to find in the baseball world. Teams that have those plan everything around them, but are also smart enough to pick up the phone when another GM hollers.
If it’s Brian Cashman of the Yankees doing the hollering, you tell it to him straight - we need a big league star who’s cheap and controllable, 20+% better than his peers already, and if that player isn’t a pitcher we slot right back into our rotation, he needs to be even cheaper or more controllable than Luis, since we’ve got to find that replacement, too.
That’s the price to tweak the plan. That should be the price, too, since the Reds are in no position to have to move a player like Castillo, and if you don’t have to move a player of that caliber, you absolutely do not move him for quantity only - you move him for equal quality and then some, since it’s someone else who’s doing the asking.
A quick scan of the Yankees roster at the moment shows a 2x All Star shortstop with a career OPS+ some 22% better than league average, one who comes with a league-minimum salary for 2021 and one more year of team control than Castillo. That’s Gleyber Torres, and if he’s off the table, there is no table.
If Brian Cashman fielded an out of the blue call from Nick Krall asking about the availability of Gleyber Torres, the first thing he’d ask for is Luis Castillo. He’d be pretty crazy not to, even if it’s a deal that breaks each others’ plan too much for either to agree to. That doesn’t mean Castillo is on the trade block, or that Torres is now, too, it simply means both clubs have damn fine players at their respective positions and it would take a seismic shift to alter their team plans to accommodate them not being around, and now both sides know that for certain.
That doesn’t make it any less fun to consider, of course. It also doesn’t make the Yankees any less thirsty for a top of the rotation arm, and it certainly doesn’t make the Reds any less hungry for an everyday shortstop who can help dig their offense out of the doldrums. So, at least we’ve got those things to still look forward to this winter, which is nice.