Opening Day is just four days away, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is not finished tinkering with his expected final roster. Just a day after acquiring a healthy, more reliable backup catcher in Jose Trevino in exchange for out-of-options reliever Albert Abreu, the Yankees have sent another reliever out of town. Well, maybe the better phrasing is “out of borough” because Joely Rodríguez won’t have far to go, as the lefty was traded to the Mets in exchange for right-hander Miguel Castro.
Rodríguez came over to the Yankees from Texas in the big Joey Gallo trade at the 2021 trade deadline and acquitted himself well during his few months in the Bronx. He pitched to a 2.84 ERA and 3.01 FIP in 19 innings, notching an 8.1 K/8 and 2.8 BB/9 while allowing just one homer. He was perfectly fine, and it wasn’t terribly surprising when the Yankees brought him back for 2022 after initially declining his option to rework his contract.
However, the Yankees clearly see more potential in the right-hander Castro.
Castro might be a familiar name to Yankees fans, as he initially came up with the Blue Jays in 2015 before heading to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki trade. He returned to the AL East with the 2017 Orioles and spent the next three and a half years in Baltimore until he was dealt to the Mets at the 2020 trade deadline.
Now, Castro will wear the pinstripes. Last year, he had a 116 ERA+ across 70.1 innings in Queens, recording impressive rates of 9.9 K/9 and 6.1 H/9. It was hard to make contact against Castro, but his biggest problem was control. That’s been the tale for the vast majority of his career, as he has a 4.8 career BB/9 and it sat at 5.5 BB/9 in 2021.
The 27-year-old Castro is three years younger than Rodríguez and Baseball Savant likes the promise of his talent a little more (and Rodríguez’s spring training velocity and health raised some red flags, too). Castro sat in the 98th percentile for fastball velocity in 2021 and was 93rd percentile in average exit velocity. His hard-hit percentile against was also 85th percentile, and his whiff percentage sat 87th as well, adding to what H/9 suggested about Castro being tough to hit. So on the rare occasion that opposing batters get hits against Castro, it’s not quality contact, that’s for sure.
The #Yankees added this pitch to their bullpen today.— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) April 3, 2022
Miguel Castro's slider produced a 41.5% whiff rate in 2021. Opponents hit .131 against it with 48 strikeouts (he throws it 35.3% of the time). pic.twitter.com/NB0TLpyYfb
The Yankees must be confident that they can cut down Castro’s walk issues a little bit and really hone in on what his repertoire could bring to the table in their bullpen. They lost a decent lefty in Rodríguez, but with Aroldis Chapman, Lucas Luetge, and Wandy Peralta (and perhaps Manny Bañuelos) in their bullpen already, they weren’t hurting for southpaws. They could afford to take a chance on Castro, and given what pitching coach Matt Blake and his staff did with others in 2021, he seems like he’s worth a shot.