With the Reds seemingly looking to cut payroll, the Dodgers are looking to capitalize, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that Los Angeles has had talks with the Reds about right-handers Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. It isn’t known if the two sides progressed far into negotiations, or if the Dodgers were doing their due diligence on potential pitching acquisitions.
Both pitchers come with two years of control. Castillo is arbitration-eligible through the 2023 season, and is projected to earn $7.6MM in 2022 (Castillo’s age-29 season). The 32-year-old Gray will earn $10.7MM in 2022, the final guaranteed season of his three-year/$30.5MM contract, and the Reds hold a $12.7MM club option on his services for 2023.
Castillo’s youth and higher ceiling makes him the bigger trade chip of the two hurlers, though Gray is hardly just a consolation prize for the Dodgers or any other team looking to dip into the Reds’ pitching staff. After an All-Star season in 2019 (his first in Cincinnati), Gray has continued to be solid in 2020-21, with a 4.05 ERA, 48.3% grounder rate, and 28% strikeout rate over his last 191 1/3 innings of work. Control is Gray’s persistent issue, as he hasn’t posted an above-average walk rate since the 2015 season when he pitched for the Athletics.
Reports from earlier this week suggested that the Reds are more open to trade discussions about Castillo than they’ve been in the past, which may be indicative of the Reds’ desire to cut the budget. Cincinnati already parted ways with one pitcher last week when Wade Miley was put on waivers and then claimed by the Cubs, thus saving the Reds the $1MM buyout of Miley’s $10MM club option for 2022, and saving the team the “risk” (from the perspective of this Reds payroll crunch) of not finding a trade partner for Miley if that option was exercised.
Any number of teams figure to be exploring just how much of a fire sale is taking place in Cincinnati, and Castillo and Gray will both garner lots of attention on the trade market. The Dodgers have a particular need for starting pitching, as Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are both free agents, Dustin May’s rehab from Tommy John surgery will keep him out until the second half of the 2022 season at the earlier, and Trevor Bauer’s future is in limbo because of legal charges and a possible suspension. Los Angeles has already made one early move for pitching in signing left-hander Andrew Heaney on Wednesday, but a higher-profile addition like Castillo or Gray would slot in nicely behind Walker Buehler and Julio Urias in the Dodgers’ rotation, while still leaving the door open for Scherzer or Kershaw to return.