Reds: The 2021 season should be Luis Castillo’s swan song in Cincinnati

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds leaves the game in the sixth inning. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds leaves the game in the sixth inning. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Some Cincinnati Reds fans have dismissed Luis Castillo‘s performance to open the 2021 season as a slump. When you’re 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA, it’s more than a slump. It’s cause for concern.

Following Thursday’s start against the Colorado Rockies, Castillo is literally the worst starting pitcher in the National League. As good as La Piedra has been over the past four seasons, there should never be a six-week stretch when he’s this bad.

Reds right-hander Luis Castillo is, statically, the worst starting pitcher in the NL.

Castillo is last among National League starters in bWAR (-1.1), WHIP (1.79), hits (55), and runs (38). Unfortunately, the alarming numbers do not end there. After reaching a career-high with an 11.4 K/9 rate in 2020, Castillo’s mark has been reduced to a career-worst 7.0 to open this season. Even more disturbing is his diminished velocity for all his pitches.

Each pitch in his arsenal, the fastball, slider, and changeup, has lost more than a mile per hour in velocity from last year. His changeup, widely considered his most effective pitch, has been incredibly ineffective in 2021 despite throwing it more than any time during his career, according to FanGraphs.

Where do manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson turn? Your guess is as good as mine. I have no doubt they have examined every issue of Castillo’s performance; however, it’s failed to yield a change in the results.

As a matter of fact, La Piedra is getting worse. In his last two outings, he’s tossed just 7.2 innings while failing to last more than four frames. Throughout his eight starts, Luis Castillo has worked less than five innings four times and has pitched more than six frames only once.

The Reds must consider trading Luis Castillo prior to next season.

One of the topics this past winter around the Reds hot stove was a possible trade of Castillo with the New York Yankees being a likely suitor. It’s anyone’s guess as to how much truth there was to those rumors, but it’s evident now that La Piedra is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Even if general manager Nick Krall had any desire to deal Castillo, now is absolutely not the time to pull the trigger with his value being at an all-time low, but that’s not to say La Piedra necessarily ends the 2021 season in a Cincinnati uniform.

Luis Castillo is under club control through the 2023 season, and the Reds should not even entertain the thought of handing him a contract extension. He’ll enter free agency for the first time during his age 31 season, and making a substantial investment to a pitcher on the other side of 30 doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons.

First of all, two of the Reds top starting pitching prospects will be pushing to open the 2022 season in the rotation. Former first-rounders Hunter Greene (2017) and Nick Lodolo (2019), barring any setbacks, should be ready for The Show by next April.

When you consider that Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle are both under contract for next season and the Reds own an option on Wade Miley, not to mention the emergence of Tejay Antone, the Reds can afford to trade Castillo.

Second, the reputation and numbers Castillo has compiled since his debut during the 2017 season can’t be dismissed. He’s been a quality starter during his time in Cincinnati, and if he’s able to flash the old La Piedra magic, the Reds can demand an attractive haul for his services from a playoff contender.

Nevertheless, the Reds should strike sooner rather than later. If Castillo can regain his form for a solid month entering the trade deadline, Cincinnati should seize the opportunity to trade him. The 2021 Reds ball club is flawed in various ways and to think they can be serious contenders is fool’s gold.

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Regardless of Luis Castillo’s fortunes for the remainder of the season, I believe 2021 will be the last year Reds Country will see him in a Cincinnati uniform. My advice to Nick Krall is to sell as quickly as the La Piedra market heats up.