SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: ‘Big time’ addition of Castillo answers key questions for Mariners

Jul 30, 2022, 9:18 AM
Mariners Luis Castillo...
Luis Castillo (58) reacts after closing out the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs on June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
(AP Photo/Matt Marton)

In the next day or two, a Cincinnati Reds equipment bag will show up in the Mariners clubhouse. With it will come the pitcher that was coveted by many contenders at the trade deadline. Luis Castillo was the best available arm on the trade market and on Tuesday or Wednesday in New York against the Yankees, he will make his first start as a Mariner.

Mariners trade huge prospect haul for All-Star Luis Castillo

“He is so happy to come here and see us again,” said Eugenio Suárez who spoke with his former Reds teammate following the Mariners’ 11-1 loss to the Astros Friday night in Houston. “He told me he is so happy to compete. He just wants to compete and win.”

“The Seattle Red Legs,” Jesse Winker, another former teammate of Castillo’s, mused. “It’s an exciting time for sure. He’s going to come in here and help us big time.”

And that is the idea. Castillo is on his way to help big time. Now.

A big-time move by Jerry Dipoto for now, full stop. It’s not about club control years. It’s not about the future core. It’s not about a player they think they can greatly improve. It’s not a ” try to get them there and see what happens” move. Rather this is the big move fans had been assured they would see when the time was right.

It’s a move that answers questions, most importantly, in the clubhouse.

“You get pumped up,” said Winker. “I’ve never really experienced the MLB trade deadline and this is really cool. It’s good for everybody, it’s good for the city of Seattle. They should be excited.”

“This move tells us a lot,” said Suárez. “They want to compete. Make the playoffs. Make us happy, make us better. From the beginning this is our goal, make the playoffs. Give this to the Seattle fans. They really deserve it. The team, too. They made a really good move, now we just go compete every day.”

For the fans, it shows that yes, Dipoto can land a top target. Make no mistake, Castillo was the top target and there was tough competition to get him. For some fans, it answers the question perhaps shouldn’t have been asked but yes, the big league club is indeed the priority. Yes, Dipoto will deal his top prospects as he gave up the organization’s No. 1, 2, 10 and 26 prospects as ranked by Baseball America, although not without some pain.

“I could use something more aggressive than hurts,” Dipoto admitted before pointing out that this was the first time in his career that he had made a trade of such magnitude with this type of return headed the other way. “All of these kids, they are so much a part of what we were building toward. Ultimately we knew that there would come a time where we felt it was our time to take a step forward. This why you build stronger, deep organizations. The talent that these players bring to the table allowed us to go out and get what we thought was the top pitcher on the market. Kudos to our scouting and player development people that made it possible and kudos to the four young players that put us in this position. We loved them all.”

With this move, the Mariners have moved beyond “if everything falls right things could happen.” So, what about that now and what next?

For the current team now with six starters the rotation needs to be sorted out. With acquiring a starter being the number 1 goal at the trade deadline, potential plans designed based on who that pitcher was had been drawn up. In each plan, taking care of George Kirby, who has already surpassed his career-high for a season in professional innings, was the priority.

“We will sit down with Scott (Servais) and Woody (Pete Woodworth) and Trent (Blank) and work through how we want to manage this,” said Dipoto. “I think there are ways we can do it creatively, but we do want to make sure that George stays on a regular turn and continues to contribute. To us it’s important that we do what we can to help him complete a 162-game season because he’s never down that before.”

The approach the Mariners have taken with young pitchers in recent years is to get them through the length of a big league season rather than shut them down early due to innings limits. They’ve also felt it important to keep them in routine, preferring to go with shorter starts rather than skip them completely. This year, however, they will have the 13-man limit on pitchers to deal with. Creativity will be required in managing the arms. Does somebody move to the bullpen? Do they piggyback starts? This remains to be seen.

As for further additions, it sounds like this was the move. Dreams of Juan Soto should probably be put aside until the 2024 offseason. Could Dipoto put together a competitive package of prospects and young major leaguers to acquire the Nats young superstar? Possibly, but at that point it is unlikely he would have the prospect capital to replenish what was subtracted from the big league team. It is likely the offense we see today plus Mitch Haniger is the offense we will see when the deadline has passed.

“On the offensive side, we are open to opportunity, but it is much harder to see where that is going to happen with Hanny on his way back. We view Mitch and the addition of Kyle Lewis as the move that our offense needed,” Dipoto said. “But that being said, we will keep our ear to the street in the event that opportunity exists. It’s just a little tougher to see where that might be.”

The thought is somewhat similar with the bullpen, with Dipoto saying he was open to adding but noting that Diego Castillo and Ken Giles are expected to return from the IL shortly after the deadline.

Acknowledging that a very significant move was made early with the acquisition of Carlos Santana, is it possible that Dipoto’s 2022 trade deadline could be limited to one gargantuan transaction? While that seems to fall into “see it to believe it” territory, the Mariners at the very least are left with what could turn out to be one of the biggest difference-makers at the deadline.

Mariners Updates: Ty France back, Diego Castillo to IL, latest on Haniger

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