There should be no sense of urgency within the Cincinnati Reds front office to trade Luis Castillo. We've heard all offseason that Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle are popular names on the trade block. While I'm sure other teams are interested in acquiring any one of the trio of Reds' starters, Cincinnati has no need to deal any of them prior to the start of the 2022 season.
Now, if another team comes calling with an offer that Nick Krall cannot refuse, by all means, Cincinnati should part ways with one of their right-handers. But all three pitchers are under team control for two more seasons meaning that the Reds are in the driver's seat.
The Reds should try to contend with Luis Castillo.
Teams are calling the Cincinnati Reds and inquiring about landing one of the team's starters because the front office made some cost-cutting moves shortly after the World Series ended. Cincinnati traded long-time catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers and waived Wade Miley.
The moves, in effect, saved the Reds $17.5M-worth of committed payroll for next season. Let's face it, with Tyler Stephenson elevating his level of play, David Bell was not going to platoon Barnhart and last year's rookie behind the plate in 2022. Stephenson is the unquestioned starting catcher and the Reds don't need to spend $7.5M on a backup.
As for Miley, while we can all agree that the left-hander put up fantastic numbers in 2021 and $10M is a bargain for a quality starter, Cincinnati is ready to see what they've got in Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. Both ascended to Triple-A last season and fans should expect the duo to find their way to the big leagues in 2022.
I say all this to illustrate that Cincinnati can still contend in a weak National League Central Division despite losing both Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley. The biggest potential loss, however, is Nick Castellanos who put up MVP-type numbers in 2021.
Castellanos is a free agent and is looking to land a seven-to-eight year deal. Would the Reds commit $150M-plus to Castellanos? We'll have to wait and see, but the smart money says that the slugger will be playing elsewhere in 2022.
The Reds should not trade Luis Castillo just yet.
So, the Reds are taking a calculated risk. They're hoping that the addition of Jose Barrero to the everyday lineup helps to offset the loss of Castellanos. I'm sure that Cincinnati is also banking on both Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez returning to form and Nick Senzel proving the doubters wrong and playing in more than 100 games next season.
While that's not a sound strategy, it's one that the fanbase, ownership, and the front office will likely cling to heading into next season. So, if that's the case, hanging on to Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle makes the most sense...for now.
But, if Moustakas is hitting .216 by the middle of the season, Suárez can't lay off the breaking ball, and Senzel has already landed on the IL, the Reds can then adjust their strategy and look to deal one of their starters before the MLB trade deadline in July.
By that time, the Cincinnati Reds should know if they're a contender or pretender. If the Redlegs are 10-plus games out of first-place, then they become a seller at the deadline and teams who are desperate for starting pitching will be giving Nick Krall a call.