The last major move left for the Red Sox this offseason seems to be to deal one of their seven starting pitchers away. We’ve known it would be on the agenda, but this weekend gave us our first real evidence that they’re seeking a match, as Rob Bradford reported on WEEI that the Red Sox had requested pitcher Luis Castillo (the one born 24 years ago today, not the 15-year veteran of ‘96-’10) from the Marlins in return for Buchholz.
That Castillo remains a Marlin and Buchholz a Red Sox tells you how the Marlins felt about that request, apparently balking at some combination of the asking price and the need to pay Buchholz more than $13 million in 2017. Typically the Red Sox are the sort of team that might offer to absorb much of that financial hit in exchange for a better return, but part of the appeal of dealing away Buchholz in this situation for the Sox is getting their payroll down well under the threshold for the luxury tax, allowing them room to perhaps make some small moves right now and, perhaps more importantly, something more significant come July, even if their farm system is perhaps too thin at this point to countenance (or even support) any blockbusters.
Even if the deal didn’t get done, though, it’s noteworthy that the Red Sox went looking for a prospect like Castillo rather than a major leaguer. So far everything that Dombrowski has done has been to push the current iteration of the team (be it the 2016 or 2017 version) towards a World Series. This would be the first time he took his foot off the gas pedal and turned his sights a bit further afield.
It’s not the worst place to do so, of course. The seventh starter’s value is certainly less than that of the sixth or especially the fifth, particularly when you consider that whoever is relegated to the bullpen early on would be taking a roster spot from someone who might well be more proficient in a relief role. And certainly the Red Sox farm system wouldn’t mind a boost given the talent it’s lost in the past couple years both to trades and graduation.
As for Castillo, to give you some idea of where the Red Sox are aiming, Baseball America ranked him second in Miami’s farm system just a few days back. He wasn’t in top-100 lists to start the year, but with his first full season as a starter a legitimate success, he stands a good chance of jumping into the ones coming out over the next few weeks and months, even if he’s old for his level. He’s a live arm who touches 100 with some regularity, and seems like he’d be a quality pick-up, though not one who will be headed Boston’s way.
We’ll see if the Red Sox can pick up someone like Castillo in the days to come. It’d be a solid get for a rental like Buchholz, but the market for starting pitching is so dry that they’re in a position to ask for a bit more than they normally would.