Starting Pitching Rumors: Cardinals, Castillo, Mariners, AL Central

The Cardinals are “intent on upgrading the rotation, not just spackling it,” Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports in a comprehensive look at the team’s potential deadline trajectories. While past deadline trades have often brought stopgaps options to St. Louis (e.g. Jon Lester and J.A. Happ just last year), the Cardinals could aim a bit higher this time around. Athletics right-hander Frankie Montas and Marlins righty Pablo Lopez are among the starters in whom the Cards have expressed interest, per the report. Goold also lists Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard as a name of interest, and there are surely others the Cardinals are considering as they look to offset injuries to Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz, Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson (who has struggled even when healthy this season).

St. Louis has upwards of $155MM already on the books for the current season, though that number will dip to around $90MM for the 2023 campaign (not including several notable arbitration raises). The Cardinals are still nearly $10MM shy of their record Opening Day payroll ($164MM), and they’ve gone a bit further than that with some midseason acquisitions in recent years, so there should still be payroll space to accommodate players making substantial salaries. They also have one of the game’s deepest farm systems, allowing them to bid competitively for the market’s top arms.

Some more notes on the trade market for starters…

  • The Mariners are looking for rotation help, and Ken Rosenthal reports in his latest appearance with FOX Sports that Reds ace Luis Castillo “seems to be their main focus and target” at this juncture (Twitter link, with video). Seattle’s top four starters — Logan Gilbert, Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen — have made at least 19 starts, and they’ve received good results from top prospect George Kirby since plugging him into the rotation (3.50 ERA through 13 starts). However, Kirby is at 96 innings between the minors and big leagues combined, which is already a notable jump from last year’s total of 67 2/3 innings. Gilbert’s 123 innings effectively match last year’s total of 124 1/3 frames. Beyond that, the Mariners probably can’t expect to avoid any notable injuries on the starting staff all season — few teams can — so there’s good sense in adding another arm to support the group. In Castillo’s case, he’d of course slot right in alongside Gilbert and Ray into a playoff rotation and give the M’s an excellent trio upon which to lean both this season and next.
  • For all the teams seeking pitching help, however, it’s the trio of AL Central front-runners that are the most aggressive at the moment, Mark Feinsand of tweets. The Twins, Guardians and White Sox are all looking to bolster their pitching staffs (rotation and/or bullpen help alike). The American League Central is the one division in the sport where there are three legitimate contenders for the division crown at the moment, and both Cleveland and Chicago (who currently trail Minnesota) are within 3.5 games of a Wild Card berth as well. There’s been prior speculation (here included) about the White Sox potentially going another direction, but they’ve been playing some of their best ball of the season this month and have thusly not had any discussions about the possibility of trading away veteran arms like Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito,’s Jon Morosi tweets.
  • As for the Twins, 1500 SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson suggested in yesterday’s podcast that Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle could be the likeliest name to land in Minnesota by Tuesday’s deadline, though the Twins are casting a wide net as they seek both rotation and bullpen help. Minnesota has also spoken to the Marlins about righty Pablo Lopez, Wolfson added.

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