The Phillies are set to claim right-hander Max Castillo off waivers from the Red Sox, reports Matt Gelb of The Athletic. Outfielder Simon Muzziotti will be designated for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster.
Castillo, 24, will provide the Phillies with some optionable rotation depth. He’s pitched in the majors in each of the past two seasons between the Blue Jays and Royals, combining for a 5.43 ERA, 18.1% strikeout rate, 9.3% walk rate and 44.7% ground-ball rate in 59 2/3 innings. Castillo was one of two players the Royals received in the 2022 trade sending Whit Merrifield to Toronto, and Baseball America ranked him 18th among Kansas City farmhands heading into the 2023 season. He pitched a total of 136 1/3 innings between Triple-A (4.58 ERA) and the majors (4.43 ERA).
While he’s not a big-time power arm (93.2 mph average on his four-seamer), Castillo has above-average command and an above-average changeup that have generally helped him post solid minor league results. Scouting reports prior to his MLB debut pegged him as a potential fifth starter or swingman. In seven minor league seasons, Castillo has a 4.04 ERA, 21.3% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate.
The Phillies’ rotation depth beyond their top five starters has been an area of focus since the team re-signed Aaron Nola. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke about the matter last month, noting that it’s been difficult to lure veterans on minor league deals, as the nature of the Philadelphia rotation doesn’t leave much opportunity for pitchers of that ilk to work their way into the mix. Zack Wheeler, Nola, Ranger Suarez and Taijuan Walker are all established veterans, and fifth starter Cristopher Sanchez posted a 3.44 ERA with a 24.2% strikeout rate and 4% walk rate in 99 1/3 innings last year.
Castillo joins left-hander Kolby Allard, who recently inked a split big league deal, as a newcomer to the 40-man roster who has can be optioned and thus provide some flexibility at the back of the rotation, should the need arise. As the season draws closer, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phils land a veteran starter or two on a minor league deal with an eye toward further supplementing their depth. The Phils lost top prospect Andrew Painter to Tommy John surgery last summer, and prospects like Mick Abel and Griff McGarry have barely pitched above the Double-A level.
In order to beef up their starting pitching depth, the Phils will potentially whittle away at an already thin group of outfielders. Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas and Nick Castellanos appear likely to roam the outfield on most days, with DH Kyle Schwarber also available for occasional left field work (probably on days when Castellanos gets a breather at DH). Reserve option Cristian Pache, Jake Cave and Edmundo Sosa are all ticketed for bench jobs to begin the season, but Muzziotti was the only minor league outfielder on the team’s 40-man roster. Just as the Phillies might look for rotation veterans willing to take non-roster deals and come to spring training, outfielders of that ilk could also be a priority in the next few weeks.
Some of that hinges on whether Muzziotti, 25, remains with the team. He went 1-for-7 in a very brief MLB debut in 2023 but had a solid .293/.358/.404 showing in the upper minors. Muzziotti smacked seven homers, swiped 26 bases, walked at an 8.6% rate and struck out in just 15.5% of his plate appearances at the Triple-A level. He has experience in all three outfield spots (though Baseball America suggests he’s best suited for corner work), and Muzziotti also has a minor league option remaining. Another team looking for outfield depth could well place a claim on waivers or look to swing a small trade to bring him aboard. The Phillies will have a week to attempt to trade Muzziotti or pass him through outright waivers.