Seattle has not been to the playoffs since 2001, the longest postseason drought in the four major North American professional sports.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. He’s really established himself as a dominant starter,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said in Houston. “We’ve got a chance to do something really big here this year. You have to step out and take a chance once in a while if you ultimately want to get the reward, take a little risk. Dominant starting pitcher, and I’m anxious to meet him.”
At 54-47, the Mariners are in the second of three AL wild-card spots, a half-game in front of Tampa Bay (53-47) and two games ahead of Cleveland (51-48).
Seattle won its final 14 games before the All-Star break, one short of the longest winning streak in team history and the best run by any club heading into the break since 1933. But the Mariners are 3-5 since, following an 11-1 loss at Houston on Friday night.
Getting back into the AL West race may be out of the question with Houston holding a 12-game lead. But landing Castillo solidifies Seattle’s rotation and makes the Mariners dangerous if they can get into the playoffs.
Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said there were conversations with the Reds about Castillo dating back to last fall, prior to the lockout, and the Mariners’ performance over the last six weeks led to the teams re-engaging.
“Right now we just think he is in the prime of his career, performing at the top of his game, and our goal is to keep him there and in any possible way help him improve where it’s possible,” Dipoto said.
Cincinnati obtained infielders Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo, and right-handers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore. Marte was the Mariners’ top-rated prospect, Arroyo was third and Stoudt fifth.
“We felt this was the best return we could get for Luis,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said.
Castillo joins third baseman Eugenio Suárez and left fielder Jesse Winker, both traded to the Mariners by Cincinnati in mid-March. Castillo last pitched Wednesday and figures to make his Mariners debut next week at Yankee Stadium, where Seattle plays a three-game series starting Monday.
A 29-year-old right-hander, Castillo was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA for the last-place Reds (38-61), striking out 90 and walking 28 in 85 innings. His fastball averages 97 mph.
He rebounded from a career-worst 8-16 record last year, when he had a 3.98 ERA.
“It has been a beautiful experience,” Castillo said through a translator. “To have my name in the fans’ mouth and having them cheer me on, it is something I will treasure forever.”
Acquired from Miami before the 2017 season, Castillo is a two-time All-Star with a 44-53 record and 3.62 ERA in six seasons. He has a $7.35 million salary this season, is eligible for arbitration next winter and can become a free agent after the 2023 season.
He joins a rotation that includes Logan Gilbert, Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen. Touted rookie George Kirby appears likely to be displaced, but Dipoto said the goal is to be creative to keep Kirby on a regular turn and contributing.
Marte, 20, hit .275 with 19 doubles, 15 homers, 55 RBIs and 13 steals this season for Class A Everett.
The 18-year-old Arroyo was a second-round draft pick last year and has hit .299 in the minors with 21 doubles, seven triples, 15 homers, 77 RBIs and 25 steals.
Stout, 24, is 13-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 33 starts over two minor league seasons.
The 22-year-old Moore was 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA this year for Class A Modesto.
“Noelvi Marte has a chance to be an impact middle-of-the-order bat who can play shortstop,” Krall said. “Edwin Arroyo, same thing — he has power/speed combo, who can play shortstop. Levi Stoudt has a chance to be a major league starter. Andrew Moore just started to pitch. He was drafted last year. He has explosive, explosive stuff. His fastball is up to 102 (mph) with a plus slider.”
Thursday, the rebuilding Reds dealt outfielder Tyler Naquin and lefty reliever Phillip Diehl to the New York Mets for two teenage minor leaguers.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is Tuesday.