Perplexing comments, head-scratching salary dump trades, and nearly six weeks of inactivity made it an uncomfortable offseason for Mariner fans. The negativity is slowly dissipating thanks to the team-inking catcher/designated hitter Mitch Garver this week. While we bask in the glow of John Stanton, the majority owner, opening up the Brinks truck, there might be an opportunity to leverage a hot commodity. Still, it will take a certain level of risk, and the move would be painful for the Mariners and their fans.
Seattle Times reporter and MLB insider Ryan Divish had an interesting take on MLB Network this week regarding the Mariners' willingness to trade pitching for proven offensive pieces. That nugget is familiar, as many media folks mentioned Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller, and Bryan Woo throughout the offseason as possible trade pieces. However, Divish threw a new name, Luis Castillo, into the mix. There comes that uncomfortable feeling again.
For an organization seemingly pinching pennies this offseason, trading an ace on a reasonable contract (5/120) in a market starving for controllable pitching might be viable. George Kirby is waiting in the wings to lead the staff, Robbie Ray will be back at midseason, and if the team trades Castillo, the haul would be immense. Dipoto could call up the Minnesota Twins and broker a Castillo for Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Brooks Lee trade. How about Baltimore, The Rock for Heston Kjerstad, Jordan Westberg, and DL Hall? Or better yet, Miami for Jazz Chisholm and Xavier Edwards. Sounds good, right?
The ongoing narrative is that Jerry Dipoto, the Mariner's president of baseball operations, is reluctant to trade their cost-controlled young arms (Hancock, Miller, and Woo). Clearing $24M off the books would allow Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander to play in a free-agent tier (Cody Bellinger, Shota Imagana) they've usually avoided joining. That is if majority owner John Stanton opens the checkbook, which is a 50/50 chance of happening. Trusting Stanton to actually slide some of the bottom line to making a better on the field product is as uncomfortable as it gets.
On the field, the ramifications of trading Luis Castillo would be just as immense as the trade package to pry him out of Dipoto's hands. It means the Mariners must join the collective teams looking for pitching this winter. They'd never pony up the cash for second tier options, Jordan Montgomery and Marcus Stroman. And just forget about Blake Snell, no matter how much he wants to play for his hometown team. Hypothetically, if Castillo is gone we are probably looking at a reunion with James Paxton or an arm of that ilk.
In the clubhouse, Castillo holds a lot of weight and became instrumental to helping a young staff get through the 2023 season (without Robbie Ray). Flipping a proven ace like Castillo for offense will more than likely have the Kendal Graveman or Paul Sewald affect on the clubhouse, which is in a word, uncomfortable. Could the Mariners trade Luis Castillo to solidify the lineup with multiple cost-controlled position players that better fit the organizational model (Dominate the Zone)?
Imagine adding Kepler and Polanco and opening up the Brinks truck for Bellinger. It could happen by doing the uncomfortable thing and selling high on a proven ace. But then again, the Mariners don't live in that space with trades or free agency. This week, they just dished out the largest AAV free agent contract in the Dipoto regime by signing Garver to a two-year $24M deal. It's hard to envision a cost-conscious organization with high-risk-avoidance tendencies to do something big that will have sweeping effects.
Luis Castillo will take the ball on March 28th against the Boston Red Sox, that is something you can bank on...maybe.