The months between the end of the 2020 World Series and the start of 2021 Spring Training may forever be known as the winter of Trevor Bauer. For better or worse, the at-times pretentious All-Star pitcher has turned his free agency into a full-fledged show reminiscent of LeBron James’ “The Decision” at the start of the last decade.
In all seriousness, Bauer is an amazing talent. His spectacular 2020 season wasn’t a fluke, and he should be more than serviceable for years to come. Having said that, however, he is nowhere near worth the $36-40 million annually that he is said to be looking for.
While the Dodgers could always use another talented arm on their roster, the price tag that Bauer is likely to go for in a market lacking top tier pitching makes it all but certain that he won’t be wearing Dodger blue when spring comes around. Despite his past hopes that he would one day be a Dodger.
Instead, the Dodgers could look to another Reds pitcher to bolster an already elite starting rotation.
An Out of the Box Trade Target
One name that the Dodgers should consider is Cincinnati flamethrower, Luis Castillo.
Luis Castillo 2020 Regular Season Stats
4-6 record, 3.21 ERA, 89 SO, 70.0 IP
Castillo is coming off of a rather pedestrian 2020 season by his standards, especially after the All-Star season he enjoyed in 2019. His 4-6 record seems less than average, but those numbers are quite deceiving considering the Reds’ offensive was mostly bad last year.
During the shortened 2020 season, Castillo was a strikeout machine. His 11.4 SO9 ratio was good for 6th best in baseball, and he was rated among the most elite pitchers in baseball in multiple other categories including pitch speed, exit velocity, and xERA.
Luis Castillo ranked vs NL pitchers in the last 2 seasons:
19 wins – Tied for 3rd
3.35 ERA – 12th
260.2 IP – 5th
315 strikeouts – 5th pic.twitter.com/65FO8A9kXU
— Brad Badini ?? (@celeBRADtion) December 29, 2020
Overall, Castillo is just a pure thrower. Moreover, his terrific fastball/changeup mix makes him as reliable as they come. The holdup with any acquisition for Castillo is his contract status, as he will not be a free agent until the 2024 season.
This means that if the Dodgers want to pick up the electric righty, they’ll have to pay a hefty price.
Proposed Trade: Dodgers receive Luis Castillo for Keibert Ruiz, Mitch White, Matt Beaty, and Ryan Pepiot
At first glance, this seems like a lot to give up for one player, but let’s take a deeper look at the details.
Catcher Keibert Ruiz is heading into the 2021 season as LA’s top prospect, a great defensive catcher with a nice overall offensive package as well. The problem is that he has stalled in Triple-A offensively and has plenty of competition for playing time at the catcher position. With Will Smith looking like the everyday catcher of the future, now may be the time to move on from Ruiz while his value is still high. It doesn’t hurt that the Reds could use some catching depth going forward, either.
Mitchell White and Ryan Pepiot are both good young arms in a loaded Dodgers farm system looking for opportunities to move up. White has had chances with the big league squad and made the most of them, but there still isn’t a path to steady playing time for the 26-year-old in LA. Pepiot was the Dodgers’ 3rd round selection in 2019 and projects as a solid 3-4 starter going forward. He hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself, but the quality of arms in the Dodgers farm system means that it will likely be another few years before he would get an opportunity.
That leaves us with Matt Beaty, a great guy, but one that is easily replaced. Beaty has done everything that has been asked of him during his time in LA, but he too has had limited chances to show his full potential due to the depth in front of him. In a trade like this, he would be getting a chance to play more innings in a rebuilding team in the hopes of boosting his value going forward.
All of this is to simply say that the Dodgers have the ability to part with some depth for a proven commodity like Luis Castillo. Throw in the fact that he is slated to make just $4.4 million in 2021 before his arbitration years in 2022 and 2023 and you have yourself a bargain, even at this cost.
The Dodgers have been building a powerhouse team from the ground up, and their farm system has produced game-changers across the field. Because of this, however, those prospects still waiting in the minors have a tougher road towards consistent playing time because the need just isn’t there.
It may seem like a weird flex, but the Dodgers almost have more talent than they know what to do with. With former top prospects like Dustin May, Will Smith, and Walker Buehler now full-fledged big leaguers, the time has come for the Dodgers to use their remaining depth to round out the edges. A trade for Luis Castillo not only gives the team some frontline starter insurance, but it also gives them the best rotation for years to come.