Why the Reds must trade Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, or Tyler Mahle

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) watches the baseball game.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) watches the baseball game. / Meg Vogel via Imagn Content Services,

No one throughout Reds Country wants to see Cincinnati's front office trade away one of the franchises key starting pitchers. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle have been part of trade rumors since the offseason began months ago.

But the reality is that one, two, or all three hurlers could be playing elsewhere before the end of the 2022 season. The Cincinnati Reds have an influx of talented starting pitching in the team's farm system, and it's time for those young bucks to make their major league debut.

The Cincinnati Reds have several talented pitchers on the farm.

Last season, we saw the four starting pitchers make their major league debut. Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, Reiver Sanmartin, and Riley O'Brien all drew at least one start in the big leagues during the 2021 season.

It looks as though Gutierrez will be the Reds No. 4 starter heading into the 2022 season, Santillan will be a key piece of the Cincinnati bullpen, and the pair of Sanmartin and O'Brien will be in the mix for a spot in the Reds rotation.

The Reds also have two former first-round picks who are likely to debut in 2022. Both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, along with the aforementioned Sanmartin and O'Brien will be battling it out this spring with their sights set on being part of the Reds starting rotation.

That means that essentially four pitchers are duking it out for one spot. Even if you look at O'Brien as more of spot starter, that still leaves Sanmartin, Greene, and Lodolo fighting for that final spot in the Reds rotation.

Another name to consider, though he's unlikely to debut this season, is Graham Ashcraft. If the right-hander can pick up in 2022 where he left off in 2021, the Cincinnati Reds will have another potential starter vying for a spot on the club.

With so many young hurlers looking to make their mark, it would be foolish of the Reds front office not to entertain trade talks with other clubs for the likes of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. All three will be free agents following the 2023 season, and by the looks of things, the Reds are unlikely to commit to any of the trio longterm.

Are the Cincinnati Reds headed for another rebuild?

With that in mind, Cincinnati should be looking to get the most out of those three pitchers while they still can. Castillo and Mahle are on very affordable deals, and Gray has a team-option for the 2023 season. The Reds can use all three pitchers to gain future assets, and with the young talent already in the farm system, you could make the argument that Cincinnati could still be competitive.

That said, as good as Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft may become, none of them will hold a candle to the type of production we're likely to see from Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, or Tyler Mahle in 2022. Essentially, the Redlegs would be sacrificing the 2022 season for better results down the line.

I know the last thing Reds fans want to hear is the word "rebuild", but that appears to be where this team is headed. Cincinnati has too much invested in declining players like Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez, and the front office seems unwilling to re-sign a talent like Nick Castellanos.

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The Cincinnati Reds front office may be content moving forward with the core of Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India, and Jose Barrero while also acquiring young talent in return by trading Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. It's a tough pill to swallow, but that seems to be the direction the Reds are headed.