I don’t see the Braves being in the market for starting pitching. This is the best rotation they’ve had in years, and Anthopoulos hasn’t been aggressive in seeking rotation help in previous seasons. Starting pitching is just so expensive at the trade deadline, and it will be even pricier this year — in terms of prospects — because there are such few sellers.
However, if the Braves do target a starting pitcher, I expect it to be a frontline guy. With options like Ian Anderson and Kyle Muller in the fold, there’s no reason for Anthopoulos to add another innings eater. The quantity of Braves’ starters is not the issue; the only reason they should trade for another is if it’s a significant upgrade. Enter Luis Castillo, the best starting pitcher that will be dealt at the trade deadline.
I’ve been clamoring for the Braves to make a run at Castillo for over a year now. He has some of the best stuff in baseball, and it’s showing on the mound this season. Castillo was named an All-Star after posting a 2.77 ERA in the first half and is peaking at the right time. Over his last four starts, he’s allowed just three earned runs. Every contender should be interested, even ones with full rotations like the Braves.
So, I don’t mind when sites like The Athletic pose the idea of Anthopoulos targeting Castillo; however, David O’Brien’s recent hypothetical trade offer might get the Braves GM blocked.
Towering Texan Kyle Muller, the Braves’ top pitching prospect, could be the centerpiece of a proposal for Castillo.
The 6-foot-7 lefty might be of particular interest to the Reds given how well Muller pitched at Cincinnati a year ago (June 27) in his second major-league start, when he gave up one hit and had nine strikeouts with two walks in five scoreless innings. He sits at 94-95 with his fastball and has topped out at 100 in the minors, and has a plus slider and good curveball. Muller had a 2.43 ERA in his first seven starts last season, with 35 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings, albeit with 17 walks.
The Braves could throw in lefty Tucker Davidson and give the Reds two potential rotation pieces for years to come, or include shortstop prospect Braden Shewmake or promising righty reliever Freddy Tarnok. In any of those deals, they’d be getting two of the Braves’ top 10 prospects.
The trade: Braves send lefties Kyle Muller and Tucker Davidson to the Reds for Luis Castillo.
This would be a laughably bad trade for the Reds, and Keith Law rightfully responded to O’Brien’s proposal with, “Nowhere near enough.”
I’m not even sure the Braves have enough in their farm system to put together a package for Castillo. But any potential trade that didn’t include a major-league piece would have to start with Vaughn Grissom and Kyle Muller. From there, the Braves could throw in a few more filler pieces and potentially force the Reds to ponder. Still, I believe they could probably find a better deal elsewhere.
But if the Braves were willing to throw in some major-league talent, that’s where things get interesting. A piece that should pique the interest of the Reds is Ian Anderson. He’s had a rough go of it this season, but we’ve seen him have a ton of success at the major-league level, especially during the playoffs, where he owns a 1.26 ERA over eight starts. He’s also just 24-years-old. Anderson could be the centerpiece, followed by a couple of top prospects.
The Package: Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller and Huascar Ynoa
That should be enough to get a deal done for Luis Castillo if the Braves are willing to take the risk. There’s a chance Anderson becomes a top of the rotation arm, but he’s going to have to develop an offering with horizontal movement for that to happen. I don’t think he’s going to figure things out this year, so the Braves could cash in on what he’s done so far and upgrade with Castillo, who would give them arguably the best rotation in all of baseball.