Reds: Signing Tyler Mahle to a contract extension should be a top priority

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 08: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 08: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

When it comes to offseason priorities, the Cincinnati Reds have a laundry list of items. While signing outfielder Jesse Winker to a long-term extension should be at the top of the list, extending starting pitcher Tyler Mahle should be next in line.

Some fans would argue that keeping Luis Castillo beyond his arbitration-eligible years should take precedence over keeping Mahle in the Queen City for the long haul. However, there are several differences between the two that would seem to suggest Mahle is better option for Cincinnati to hang onto beyond the 2023 season.

Both Mahle and Castillo were signed to one-year contracts this past winter. Castillo, being a former All-Star, signed the more lucrative of the two deals, agreeing to a one-year/$4.2M contract. Mahle signed a one-year deal worth $2.2M.

Tyler Mahle should be a top priority for the Reds to re-sign this offseason.

When you put Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo side-by-side, the stats would lean in La Piedra’s direction. Castillo has a higher career WAR (14.2) than Mahle (6.6). Castillo’s career-ERA (3.73) and strikeout-rate (26.2%) are also better than Mahle’s. However, there are a few factors to look at that may suggest Mahle is the better long-term option for the Cincinnati Reds.

Mahle’s K/9 took a bit of a dip this season (10.50), but it’s drastically better than during the full 162-game season in 2019 (8.95). Mahle’s strikeout-rate increased from 23.2% in 2019 to 27.7% this season. Mahle’s batting average against dropped from .263 in 2019 to .228 this season; a decrease of 35 points.

Looking at Castillo’s numbers, the right-hander’s K/9 fell from 10.67 in 2019 to 9.23 this season. La Piedra’s strikeout-rate also took a tumble, falling from 28.9% in 2019 to 24.0% this season. Castillo’s batting average against also soared from .200 in 2019 to .250 this season.

There’s also the age to consider. Luis Castillo will be 29 years old by the time Opening Day rolls around in 2022, while Tyler Mahle will be tuning 27 years old later this week. When investing in players for the long haul, teams love to project what said player will look like two, three, or five years down the road.

Furthermore, this is the Cincinnati Reds, who occupy one of the smallest markets in baseball. Now, I’m not here to discuss how much money Bob Castellini has, and why it’s foolish to talk about money, and that in order to be competitive teams must shell out for good players. I get all that, but history would suggest that the Reds aren’t big spenders. Period!

I’m not suggesting that re-signing Luis Castillo is a bad investment, quite the opposite. His stuff is among the best in the game, and keeping Castillo in the Queen City should rank high on the Reds’ list of offseason priorities as well.

However, Tyler Mahle seems like the better play here. Mahle is, at worst, a solid No. 3 starter on a playoff-caliber team. With Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo likely to debut in 2022, Cincinnati has some great young talent ready to impact the starting rotation.

Luis Castillo was said to be attracting the gaze of opposing GMs over the winter, and one would think that would be the case again this offseason. Trading Castillo could bring back a much larger haul for the Reds than dealing Mahle.

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For the Reds’ sake, let’s hope that both Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo are back in Cincinnati next season. That said, one of the two should be signed to a long-term extension this offseason. With all things being considered, the Reds should make an investment in Tyler Mahle.