Seattle Mariners Acquire Luis Castillo in Trade with Cincinnati Reds

Luis Castillo is heading west…

The Seattle Mariners, looking to end a postseason drought that stretches to 2001, acquired the best arm on the trade market on Friday night in a deal for the 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds.

Luis Castillo“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game — he’s really established himself as a dominant starter,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “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.”

Minor leaguers Noelvi Marte, Levi Stoudt, Edwin Arroyo and Andrew Moore are headed to Cincinnati, the teams announced.

Marte, a shortstop, is the highest rated of the group, with ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranking him the 12th-best prospect in baseball ahead of the season.

“We felt this was the best return we could get for Luis,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said.

The Mariners, led by star rookie Julio Rodriguez, are 54-47, 12 games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the AL West. They 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 MLB 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.

Now, they’ve added the best available arm ahead of the Tuesday trade deadline, one who will join an already-solid rotation that includes Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert.

It’s a massive pickup for a Mariners organization that has not reached the postseason since 2001, the longest active drought among the four major North American pro sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

Castillo is 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts for the Reds this season, striking out 90 and walking 28 in 85 innings. His fastball averages 97 mph. He has a career 3.62 ERA in six seasons, all with Cincinnati.

“It has been a beautiful experience,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “To have my name in the fans’ mouth and having them cheer me on, it is something I will treasure forever.”

Castillo won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, so the Mariners would have him for at least the rest of this year and all of next.

Castillo has bounced back from a career-worst season in 2021, when he lost 16 games and walked a league-high 75 batters. His changeup has been his best pitch for most of his career, but this year, he is actually throwing his four-seam fastball more, and doing so with a lot of success. Opponents have whiffed on 39% of their swings against his four-seamer, the highest rate of Castillo’s career and the highest of any pitcher in the majors (minimum 300 four-seamers thrown).

Castillo has a 1.38 ERA in four starts against the AL this year, second to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (0.69) among qualified pitchers.

The Reds have been moving veteran players for prospects since the end of the lockout earlier this year. In March, they traded Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Mariners, and Thursday, they traded outfielder Tyler Naquin and reliever Phillip Diehl to the New York Mets.

They’re getting a haul from Seattle in this trade, with Marte and Arroyo ranked among the team’s top 10 prospects ahead of the season by ESPN’s McDaniel.

Marte, 20, has spent the year for High-A Everett, hitting .275 with 15 home runs and a team-best 62 runs scored and 55 RBIs to go along with 13 steals entering Friday.

McDaniel ranked Arroyo, also a shortstop, as Seattle’s eighth-best prospect entering the season. The 18-year-old has spent the season at Single-A Modesto, hitting .316 with 76 runs, 67 RBIs, 13 home runs and 21 steals.

Stoudt, a 24-year-old right-hander and a third-round draft pick in 2019, is 6-6 with a 5.28 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Arkansas this season.

And Moore, 22, has a 1.95 ERA in 25 relief appearances at Modesto this season.

“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 with a plus slider.”

Cincinnati infielder Brandon Drury also could be moved before the Tuesday deadline, along with several Reds relievers.

Kansas City Royals Trade Carlos Santana to Seattle Mariners

Carlos Santana is headed west…

The Kansas City Royals have traded the 36-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball designated hitter and first baseman, nicknamed “Slamtana,” and nearly $4.3 million to the Seattle Mariners for right-handers Wyatt Mills and William Fleming, clearing the way for Kansas City to bring up hot prospect Vinnie Pasquantino.

Carlos SantanaPasquantino was not in the starting lineup against the Texas Rangers on Monday night because of tight travel schedules, but Royals general manager J.J. Picollo and manager Mike Matheny expect his big bat to be in the lineup regularly.

“When I was growing up, I had a dream of playing professional baseball. But I just enjoy playing the game,” said Pasquantino, who was doing his laundry when he learned of his big league call-up. “I still do now, and I’m going to continue to try to do that as we move forward. I just love playing the game.”

The Royals optioned Mills, a 27-year-old relief pitcher, to Triple-A Omaha while designating right-hander Ronald Bolanos for assignment. Fleming, a 23-year-old with starting potential, was assigned to Class-A Quad Cities.

This is the second time Santana has been with Seattle, though the first lasted a mere 10 days. He was acquired along with J.P. Crawford from the Philadelphia Phillies for infielder Jean Segura, right-hander Juan Nicasio, and left-hander James Pazos on December 3, 2018; the Mariners then traded him away as part of a three-team deal with Cleveland and the Tampa Bay Rays.

This time should be different for Santana, who hit 19 homers in 158 games for Kansas City last season but was hitting just .216 with four homers through 52 games this season.

The Mariners were in search of a switch-hitter and an option at first base with leading hitter Ty France on the injured list with an elbow injury.

Santana has been better at the plate over the past month, hitting .357 with a 1.032 OPS in June.

The Mariners will pay $1.5 million of the remainder of Santana’s salary in the second year of a two-year, $17.5 million deal.

With the Royals last in the AL Central at 26-45 heading into their Monday night game against Texas, and Santana nearing the end of his contract, it was prudent for Kansas City to clear the way for Pasquantino to begin his big league career.

The 24-year-old was picked in the 11th round of the 2019 first-year player draft out of Old Dominion and was generally one of the Royals’ overlooked prospects until the past couple of seasons. Dubbed the “Italian Nightmare” by Hall of Famer George Brett in spring training, Pasquantino was hitting .280 with 18 homers this season at Omaha, and he was among the Triple-A leaders in extra-base hits, runs, homers and slugging percentage.

“I’m excited to be in the clubhouse every day and see what everybody’s about,” said Pasquantino, who joins top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. and catcher MJ Melendez among a wave of rookie position players in Kansas City.

“I’m coming into a clubhouse with some established veterans and I’m excited to learn from those guys,” he said.

Mills had a 4.15 ERA in eight appearances for Seattle this season, along with going 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 19⅔ innings for Triple-A Tacoma. Fleming was picked in the 11th round of last year’s first-year player draft out of Wake Forest and was 6-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 14 starts for Class-A Modesto this season.

Bolanos had a 4.42 ERA in eight appearances for Kansas City this season.

Harold Ramirez Traded to Tampa Bay Rays

A ray(s) of light for Harold Ramirez.

The 27-year-old Colombian professional baseball outfielder has been acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.

Harold RamirezRamirez batted .268 with seven homers and 41 RBI in 99 games with Cleveland last season. He was acquired by the Cubs for cash in November.

Chicago got minor league infielder Esteban Quiroz in the deal with Tampa Bay. The 30-year-old Quiroz hit .268 with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 68 games with Triple-A Durham last year.

A native of Cartagena, Colombia, Ramirez is a .271 hitter over parts of three seasons with Miami Marlins and Cleveland.

He ranked sixth among National League rookies with 116 hits for the Marlins in 2019.

Alex Colomé Agrees to One-Year Deal with Colorado Rockies

Alex Colomé has a new deal…

The 33-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher has agreed to a one-year deal with the Colorado Rockies, according to The Associated Press. The contract will become official when Colome passes a physical.

Alex Colomé The deal for the reliever is reportedly worth $1.25 million.

Daniel Bard and Carlos Estevez combined for 31 of the Rockies’ 33 total saves in 2021, though Colome’s more established track record as a closer could make him the top ninth-inning choice for the Rox next year.

Bard and Estevez could be moved back into set-up roles, or manager Bud Black could simply take a committee approach with his closer’s role.

Colome, who made his Major League Baseball debut in May 2013, is coming off a season in which he saved 17 games for the Minnesota Twins.

He led the league with 47 saves in 2017 while with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Colome also played for the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

Avisail Garcia Agrees to Four-Year, $53 Million Contract with Miami Marlins

Avisail Garcia is headed to the South Florida…

The 30-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball right fielder has agreed to a four-year, $53 million contract with the Miami Marlins are in agreement on a four-year, $53 million contract, according to ESPN.

Avisail Garcia The Marlins will become Garcia’s fifth team.

He is coming off his best season, hitting 29 home runs with 86 RBIs — both career bests — for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021.

Garcia opted for free agency earlier this month, and the Marlins have made it clear in recent weeks that landing outfield help was a top offseason priority.

Garcia has also played with the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays and for the Chicago White Sox, a team he represented in the 2017 All-Star Game played at what was then called Marlins Park in Miami.

In parts of 10 seasons, Garcia has batted .270 with 127 home runs and 475 RBIs. He has played almost exclusively in right field, with limited time in center and left as well.

Wander Franco Finalizes 11-Year, $182 Million Deal with Tampa Bay Rays

It’s official… Wander Franco is staying with the Rays for more than a decade.

The 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

Wander FrancoFranco’s deal, which could be worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached, was announced Saturday.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays, and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “We are committed to fielding competitive teams year in and year out, and we all expect that Wander’s presence and contributions will play a large part in maintaining our standard of excellence.”

Tampa Bay won the AL East in 2021, but was eliminated by Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

The contract is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays’ 24-year history. It’s also the biggest deal in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco is the fifth player with less than a year of big league experience to sign a long-term extension with the team. The others are third baseman Evan Longoria (2008), left-hander Matt Moore (2011), right-hander Chris Archer (2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (2019).

 

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said in a statement. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

Franco made his major league debut June 22 and hit a three-run homer. He batted .288 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Franco put together a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in major league history among players under 21. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with two homers and four RBI in four postseason games.

Franco would have been eligible for free agency after the 2027 season. He gets a $5 million signing bonus, with $2.5 million payments on Dec. 1 and June 1, 2022.

The yearly salary breakdown is: $1 million in 2022, $2 million in 2023 and 2024, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027 and $25 million in each of the last five seasons. The 2033 club option is $25 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Franco’s deal also includes salary escalators if he finishes in the top five in voting for AL MVP. If he is traded before April 2, 2029, Franco receives a $3 million assignment bonus. It drops to $2 million if he is dealt on or after that date.

Wander Franco Reportedly Agrees to 12-Year Contract with Tampa Bay Rays Worth Up To $223 Million

Wander Franco has a dozen reasons to smile…

The Tampa Bay Rays saw enough in the 70 major league games that 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop played to secure a massive contract with him.

Wander FrancoFranco has agreed to a 12-year contract that guarantees him around $185 million, according to ESPN sources. The deal is worth a maximum of $223 million.

That dwarfs the previous record contract for a player with less than one full year of service time. At age 21 in 2019, Ronald Acuna Jr. signed an eight-year, $100 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.

Franco hit .288 with seven homers and 39 RBIs last season and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He stepped up his game in the postseason, batting .368 with two homers and four RBIs in four games.

Franco wasn’t set to become arbitration eligible until 2024 and couldn’t become a free agent until 2027, but that was under the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires on December 1.

Randy Arozarena Named the American League’s Rookie of the Year

Randy Arozarena is celebrating a special honor…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder, last year’s breakout postseason star, has been named this year’s American League Rookie of the Year.

Randy ArozarenaThe Tampa Bay Rays outfielder beat out teammate Wander Franco and right-handed starter Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros for the honor.

Arozarena received 124 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, including 22 for first place. Garcia had 63 points and Franco had 30 points.

Arozarena led all rookies with a 4.1 WAR while compiling a .815 OPS. He hit 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases becoming the third rookie (Mike TroutAndrew Benintendi) in the last decade to compile a 20-20 season.

Arozarena made only one error in 119 games played in the outfield. He and first baseman Jose Martinez were acquired in January 2020 from the St. Louis Cardinals for lefty Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez.

Arozarena was the ALCS MVP that season while hitting 11 home runs during the playoffs.

“I know I was favored to be the rookie of the year,” Arozarena said through a translator. “But for me, my mind wasn’t set on the award or winning the award. My mind and my goal was to have another good season and continue what I had done the year before.”

Arozarena is Tampa Bay’s first rookie of the year since outfielder Wil Myers in 2013.

Franco, 20, made a late season run for top rookie honors as he reached base in 43 consecutive games, tied with Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such streak by a player 20 years old or younger. Franco only played in 70 games after getting called up from the minors in June.

Garcia, 24, was an integral part of the division winning Astros. He appeared in 30 games including making 28 starts while compiling a 3.48 ERA. He gave up just 133 hits in 155.1 innings. He led all AL rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Nelson Cruz Receives Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award

Nelson Cruz is being celebrated for his charity…

The 41-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays has been awarded Major League Baseball‘s Roberto Clemente Award for his character, community involvement and philanthropy.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz, the 50th winner of the honor, received the award before World Series Game 2 on Wednesday night.

“Growing up as a Latin, you always heard about Roberto Clemente,” he said. “I never had a chance to see him play. I knew what a great player he was. Once I came to the States I found out, oh, he’s not only a good player, he’s a great human being.”

Cruz, a 17-year MLB veteran and seven-time MLB All-Star, provided financial support to 1,200 families in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic, during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping feed 700 families.

After a fire destroyed the home of a childhood friend, Cruz provided the town with a fire engine, 80 firefighter uniforms and an ambulance for transportation for people to the nearest hospital, which is about an hour away.

His Boomstick23 Foundation began construction of an education and technical center last year and he will stock the center with computers to assist athletes in their education.

Cruz also organizes dentists and optometrists to go the town’s clinic for checkups, medicine and eyewear, and 500 patients received dental services last year.

He helped arrange for MLB, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the union’s Players Trust to donate $400,000 to the Dominican Republic for medical equipment and food aid during the pandemic.

“We first started with the dental clinic, and the next year we started asking how we can do the mental [health] and the eye doctors,” he said. “We started doing everything all at the same time. We even went to schools and provided kids with all the books and stuff that they need.”

Cruz was nominated by the Minnesota Twins, who traded him to the Rays  in July. He joined Hall of Famers Rod Carew (1977), Dave Winfield (1994) and Kirby Puckett (1997) as Minnesota players to win the award.

Randy Arozarena Makes MLB Playoff History by Stealing Home & Hitting Homer in Same Game

Randy Arozarena has made MLB playoff history…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays – the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year — made history Thursday by becoming the first player in playoff history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game during Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Randy Arozarena

The swipe marked the first steal of home in a playoff game since 2016, when Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez pulled off the feat in the National League Championship Series, and the first straight steal of home in a playoff game since Jackie Robinson‘s against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees in 1955.

“I noticed the pitcher kind of wasn’t keeping attention to me. I was able to take a big enough lead and take that base,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home.”

Arozarena, who is still a rookie despite setting postseason records with 10 home runs and 29 hits in 20 games during the 2020 playoffs, stole home against Boston reliever Josh Taylor to make the score 5-0 in the seventh inning after drawing a walk.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Arozarena had been asking him about stealing home for weeks. During the 2020 World Series, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was thrown out when he attempted a similar steal off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but Arozarena kept insisting.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ — green light,” Cash said. “We finally gave it to him.”

Arozarena easily beat the throw home to catcher Christian Vazquez via headfirst slide.

Arozarena ranks second for the most home runs in a 20-game postseason span, tied with Carlos Beltran and Jim Thome with 11 and trailing just Babe Ruth, who leads with 12. His 11 career postseason home runs are five more than any other rookie in MLB history, with Evan Longoria ranking second with six.

Asked about his playoff success, Arozarena said the stakes create a desire to meet the moment.

“I just focus a little bit more,” Arozarena said. “Luckily it’s happening in October, when it means it’s closer to the World Series.”