Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees have many options as the 2022 MLB trade deadline approaches. Whether it’s addressing pressing needs due to injuries or upgrading at certain positions, plenty of players would fill out the Yankees lineup card quite nicely when October rolls around. They reeled in Andrew Benintendi last night, and two even bigger fish in the trade block pond are Cincinnati Reds pitcher Luis Castillo and Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto. Both would be incredibly valuable in their own unique ways.
Fans have been screaming from the rooftops for the Yankees to add a pitcher like Castillo to the rotation. This has been a multi-year saga, and at one point last season, it sounded like the dreams were going to come to fruition. They didn’t, though, and in 78 innings this year, the 29-year-old righty is sporting a 2.77 ERA with a 3.05 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, and 1.5 fWAR — all for a team going nowhere. The final jewel on his pre-deadline crown appeared to be his incredible outing at Yankee Stadium on July 14th with seven innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. With Luis Severino going down with an injury and Domingo Germán not being good enough to deserve a steady rotation spot, there’s a need for another starter.
In an article on Tuesday, my colleague Esteban Rivera talked about why Castillo would be the perfect fit for the Yankees. Essentially, he’s a one-of-a-kind pitcher with a unique delivery who gives his pitches a different set of movements. Everyone around the game knows how nasty his circle changeup is, which he uses 26.1 percent of the time — the second-most of any pitch in his repertoire.
Luis Castillo, Filthy 90mph Changeup...and K Spin/Lunge. pic.twitter.com/M6nFnKw4RU— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 14, 2022
But Castillo’s other pitches are different because of said delivery too, as Esteban notes in his article. The kind of looks that hitters get on his fastballs are much different than the ones they would normally see. All this is to say that Castillo would bring more diversity to a Yankees rotation missing plenty of it, especially with Severino out. With pitching guru Matt Blake assisting him and his toolkit, the 29-year-old could keep being a force against any batter that steps in the box. Adding a pitcher with his kind of movement behind a high-octane fastball-oriented pitcher in Gerrit Cole would be lethal in a playoff series.
As for the other high-profile name on the market, there’s not much more about the nonpareil Juan Soto that hasn’t already been said (though PSA’s Estevão Maximo did a tremendous job in his trade target post). The incredible 23-year-old lefty outfielder has two more years under team control after 2022, and it would be well worth it for the Yankees to pay a pretty price, even if they decided not to re-sign him after 2024.
Soto in 2022 is slashing .245/.401/.485 with an OPS+ of 156. He holds a 2.4 fWAR and a wRC+ of 149 as well. A player being dubbed as this generation’s Ted Williams is not often on the market. It would behoove Cashman to strongly consider the possibility of bringing him in, especially since the Yankees might just have the pieces to throw in a trade if they believe it’s worth the price. What he is doing at the ripe age of 23 — when Aaron Judge was still in the minors — is otherworldly. Leading MLB in walk rate by 2.8 percent while ranking in the top 30 in slugging percentage and owning the 24th-lowest strikeout rate in 2022 is nothing short of incredible.
Many other numbers represent how well Soto has played in 2022 and over his brief major league career that I could go on forever. And even though his defense by defensive runs saved (DRS) and outs above average (OAA) hasn’t been the best, there’s a good chance that it will return in time.
It’s important to note that the Yankees probably only have enough top-tier talent in the pipeline to pursue one of these targets, and it all comes down to the most significant need. Soto is an incredibly talented player, but is it of incredible importance to pursue him at the deadline? Or should the Yankees settle with Benintendi and address their apparent need for another reliable starting pitcher while they have the chance?
With Soto statistically adding more wins to the roster, the Yankees in need of another outfielder with Matt Carpenter (despite his incredible season so far at the plate) not looking comfortable defensively, and Joey Gallo most likely on the way out, there is undoubtedly a need for another well above average outfielder. The Yankees recently acquired the aforementioned Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals, but a rental probably doesn’t affect the idea of trading for a franchise-changing superstar.
However, where the Yankees are right now with Severino hurt and both Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery struggling at points in July, a starting pitcher may be the best option. Castillo is an easy number two starter in the Yankees rotation, and if the end goal for the outfield is getting Judge signed to a massive deal, Soto may take a backseat, especially considering the Nationals don’t have to trade him if they don’t want to at this deadline. This is a franchise-altering transaction, and GM Mike Rizzo’s job is probably on the line if he doesn’t nail the return.
The good news is that there isn’t a bad option. Soto is a generational outfielder, and Castillo is a reliable starter with some nasty stuff. Still, after being swept by the New York Mets with very little bullpen and rotation help, pitching appears to be the position of most need. As the deadline approaches, we will see what the Yankees front office thinks, but it may be worth holding off on Soto until he hits free agency — or at least the 2022-23 offseason, if he’s still available.