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Dipoto: Mariners’ interest in Castillo dates back to 2016 due to ex-M’s GM

Sep 15, 2022, 10:39 AM | Updated: 11:53 am
Mariners Luis Castillo...
Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the San Diego Padres at T-Mobile Park on September 14, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners have been one of the best teams in baseball over the last few months and that’s largely because of the strength of their pitching staff.

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That staff was already among the league’s best before the trade deadline, but Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto made one of the biggest deals of the season, acquiring All-Star right-hander Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for four prospects in late July.

The deal has paid dividends for Seattle as the 29 year old has a 2.37 ERA in eight starts with the Mariners and is striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings.

It’s easy to see why Castillo was such a hot commodity at the deadline, but the Mariners’ interest in him goes back much further than just this year. How much further? Dipoto explained during his weekly Thursday visit with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

“We tried to trade for Luis at the trade deadline in 2016,” Dipoto said.

If you look back to 2016, that was Dipoto’s first full season as general manager of the Mariners, and Castillo was still a prospect in the Miami Marlins organization who had yet to make his MLB debut.

“The first conversation I ever had where his name came up, we were in trade discussions at that time with the Marlins,” Dipoto said. “And they were looking for Wade Miley, who was a left-handed starter with us at the time. And in return, we were trying to get Luis Castillo.”

The Mariners obviously didn’t land Castillo in 2016. He was instead part of a different deadline deal with the San Diego Padres, but he was returned to Miami after a player involved in the trade was injured. Castillo was then traded from Miami to the Reds that following offseason. Miley, meanwhile, was traded by Seattle to the Baltimore Orioles.

“We didn’t get him. They wound up trading him in a different direction and that was our loss,” Dipoto said.

How exactly did Castillo wind up on Dipoto’s radar?

“If I recall, the first person who brought Luis to our attention was former GM Woody Woodward, who was with us for a number of years and almost exclusively covered the Marlins and the Rays and the Florida-based teams for those years,” Dipoto said. “And Luis Castillo was was somebody he was pretty high on.”

Woodward was Mariners general manager from 1988 until he retired after the 1999 season, which at the time was the most successful period of baseball the franchise had seen.

Castillo the pitcher

Castillo in 2016 was a lot different than the Castillo the Mariners have now who spun six scoreless innings and struck out nine batters in a win over the Padres on Wednesday.

Castillo has one of the best and most dynamic four-pitch arsenals in baseball. What pitch of Castillo’s does Dipoto, himself a former MLB pitcher, like the most?

“Strike one,” he said laughing. “And I guess in LC’s case, maybe strike three, too. But I’m always a big subscriber to working ahead in the count. That’s how you get major league hitters out.”

Castillo’s mix of pitches all “play so well together,” Dipoto said.

“Everything that comes out of his hand, it’s top of the charts,” he said. “The run and sink on the two-seamer, it’s the ride and the velocity on the four-seamer, the changeup is just filthy. And right now – and maybe yesterday most of all – as a Mariner, just all of it is clicking. And he’s as good as anybody right now, I think.”

What makes Castillo even more interesting aside from his dynamic pitch mix is that he utilizes a lower arm slot than many starting pitchers, with the ball coming out from a three-quarters angle.

Has that kind of arm motion always been part of Castillo’s game?

“It really has,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto said the way pitching used to be taught was more “standardized or uniform,” with the old saying being “tall and fall” on the mound. Pitchers maybe “looked a little bit more like robots” then as they all looked very similar.

“And now, our general take is the way you throw the ball, your natural (way) when you pick up the ball to go throw it, that’s probably the way you were meant to throw and your body’s going to start self-correcting on the way down the hill, and it starts there,” he said. “This is Luis.”

Castillo reminds Dipoto of three of the better right-handed pitchers in baseball over the last 30 years.

“Mechanically, it’s a lot like Kevin Brown, or even to some degree Pedro (Martinez) with that lower slot and all those different weapons that we talked about. They play up because of the slot,” he said. “I think of Max Scherzer and Kevin Brown and then Pedro Martinez throwing that kind of velocity with that kind of movement and the ability to hit all the quadrants of the strike zone from that low three-quarter slot, and that is just tough on the hitter.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday on Seattle Sports 710 AM during Brock and Salk. You can listen to a podcast of this week’s full episode at this link or in the player below.

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