Luis Castillo, Not Juan Soto, Should Be Target Of Dodgers Trade

On Tuesday, during the fifth inning of the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, chants erupted from the outfield pavilions.

It was addressed to outfielder Juan Soto, the star of the Washington Nationals, who suddenly and famously found himself in a shopping district and could go you-know-where.

“Future Dodger!” the fans chanted. “Future Dodger!”

Right mood. Right time. Wrong player.

At the same time, on the hill was an experienced veteran who is much more important to the Dodgers, but who was completely ignored.

His name is Luis Castillo, he plays for the Cincinnati Reds, and he could easily fill the Dodgers’ biggest hole in the last two weeks before the trade deadline.

They need a starting pitcher much more than they need a starting outfielder. They need October outings more than October runs. They need someone who can go deeper into the playoff game than someone who can go deep into the fastball.

The Dodgers can win a championship without a man like Juan Soto, but they can’t win it without a man like Luis Castillo, so they need to prioritize clearly.

Castillo first, Soto second, and all the begging in the world won’t change that.

The Dodgers don’t say it, but they seem to agree. Just listen to manager Dave Roberts on Thursday before his pitching team blew a five-time lead against the San Francisco Giants only to be saved by triple Trace Thompson and Mookie Betts’ homer in a 9-6 win.

When I asked Roberts if his team had enough kickoffs to win the championship, he smiled.

“You know, I’m going to say yes,” he said.

But… well… then he stopped smiling.

“I know where you’re going in the sense that you have to have opportunities and you have to have a starting XI to win multiple seven-game series,” he said. “You have to have guys who can go deep into games.”

The Dodgers aren’t sure they have enough of these guys to survive three October series. While the Dodgers’ starters are the best in baseball – leading with a 2.77 ERA and .214 batting average against – too many question marks loom behind those exclamation marks.

Clayton Kershaw is a reborn ace who has a magical season but is always on the brink of death. He’s 34 and still on pace to throw the most innings in three years.

Julio Urias should have been more consistent this year, but he’s still plagued by occasional fire and few will forget his 10.50 ERA in two games in last year’s National League Championship Series loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Tony Gonsolin was the league’s first-half surprise with a 11-0 record and a 2.02 ERA, but he’s already surpassed his previous pitching high and he’s been terrible in the postseason with a 9.45 ERA. He remains unproven in important moments, as evidenced by the three runs he allowed in the same inning when he was defeated in the All-Star Game.

“I really think Tony is mentally strong, so I don’t think it will bother him,” Roberts said of the giant home runs by the New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton and the Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton against Gonsolin. “Yes, I would like to be without points, and he just threw 10 innings, but this was not destined to happen. But I don’t think it will affect his future life.”

Then there’s Tyler Anderson, who has a similar history with an amazing 10-1 record and a 2.96 ERA, but with little postseason pedigree. He appeared in only two career playoff games.

Of course, the rotation will improve significantly if postseason ace Walker Buhler returns from an elbow injury and brilliant young Dustin May returns from elbow surgery. But even though both are expected back in September, the Dodgers can’t reasonably include them in their plans for October.

“Two guys are going through serious injuries, I don’t think anyone can [on] it,” Roberts said of their return. “But that’s kind of our hope, I guess.”

They must do more than just hope. They must be strengthened. More than anything, they need to remember.

An inspiring postseason win against St. Louis last season. The Louis Cardinals and Giants were defeated by an NLCS starting pitching failure against the Braves. Kershaw was injured and Urias was confused by his erratic use. They mostly had Max Scherzer, Buehler and the bullpen.

Scherzer passed out, Buehler burned out, and the Braves won the series against a Dodgers team that used Corey Knebel and Joe Kelly as starters.

Sure, the Dodgers’ bosses mishandled the whole mess, and the Giants’ five-game streak wore the Dodgers out before they even set foot in Atlanta, but the team never recovered from the lack of starting pitch.

This year, that can’t be an excuse. They can foresee it. They know what awaits them. They have the potential to fatten up their rotation, so they should use them. These are the same children – the Diego Cartai of the world – that everyone is touting as the currency in the deal with Juan Soto.

Again, right idea, wrong player.

Luis Castillo is a 29-year-old right-hander who has a career 3.62 ERA in six seasons for the hardcore Cincinnati Reds. At least this guy knows how to overcome adversity.

This season is his best, 2.77 ERA in 13 starts with 82 strikeouts in 78 innings. He’s likely to be traded because the Reds are rebuilding and he’s in demand all over baseball, but few teams can offer young talent like the Dodgers.

We assume they have eyes, computers, and radar guns on Castillo and will most likely catch up to him before pursuing Soto.

“Our guys are always trying to find ways to get better,” said Roberts from the front office. “So if there’s an opportunity to get us better on the starting pitching front, we’ll act on it.”

Roberts emphasized his confidence in his current starting lineup and stated that he was ready to go a long way with them.

“What we have in the room is that I believe in each of these guys,” he said.

It’s one thing to believe, another thing to know, and the Dodgers know.

Juan Soto is good. Luis Castillo is a must.