Yankees refusing to cross key hurdle could send Luis Castillo to Astros

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 14: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 14, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 14: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 14, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

If Luis Castillo’s performance on Thursday night in the Bronx wasn’t enough to convince the Yankees that this is the year to go for it, perhaps a quick look at the standings might indicate why the Bombers are uniquely positioned to go for the jugular.

Despite a slide heading into the All-Star break that illuminated their remaining holes, the Yankees are still significantly ahead of the field, tussling more so with the Astros for the best record in the league than any of the other very good, likely playoff teams in the AL East.

That cushion exists because everything broke right for New York in April, May and the majority of June. Now, though, some of the Yankees’ advantages are beginning to run thin. The bullpen is far leakier than it used to be, and the rotation is missing Luis Severino and the Jameson Taillon of old. The outfield could be patched up by Matt Carpenter, or by a higher-profile name. Somehow, through all the team’s first-half successes, bugaboos, trials and tribulations, the once-league-leading starting staff feels like their biggest potential upgrade spot, especially based on the targets available.

Targets like … Castillo, who the Reds don’t seem to want to sit on any longer after staying pat at the 2021 deadline and during the ’21-’22 offseason. It’ll take plenty for one of the two favorites — reportedly the Yankees and Dodgers — to actually acquire him. The Reds, not willing to bend, would like the Yankees’ package to lead with either Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza, by many accounts their top two prospects and both shortstops.

For now, the Yankees don’t seem willing to relent. At a certain point, they might have to in order to get this roster over the hump. If not now, when? If not trading from a position of strength (shortstop), when will a trade of this magnitude ever get consummated?

Yankees won’t include Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe in Luis Castillo trade

Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees have tried for years to acquire Castillo, but apparently without the requisite desire to push the deal beyond the “trying” phase:

"The Yankees love Luis Castillo and have been trying to acquire him off and on for a couple of years, and word is the Yankees and Dodgers are best-positioned to land the All-Star right-hander, who’s likely the best starter on the market. The Yankees have said they won’t part with either of the Reds’ prime targets — Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza — and maintain that won’t change."

This year, more than any other recent season, the Bombers must give to get. They have a unique opportunity ahead of them, and if the dreaded Astros do present themselves — especially at Minute Maid Park — New York’s rotation has to be as high-octane as possible.

Volpe and Peraza both appear to be special players, but they also both occupy the same space on the diamond. Moving one to second base to replace Gleyber Torres doesn’t seem so appealing these days, now that Torres has re-established himself as an All-Star caliber player. The Yankees are locked in a game of chicken with the Reds, but one in which they should be totally willing to blink first if the Dodgers start showing a willingness to peel off their top two prospects, just like last year when they dealt Keibert Ruiz from a position of strength.

Sound familiar?

Of course, it could all get worse. According to insider Erik Boland, the Houston Astros have joined the crowded field of potential Castillo applicants, and executives around the league believe they have more than enough ammunition to pay a high enough price to win his services.

Cashman was already going to have to surrender an unpleasant amount of prospect capital. Does he care enough about Castillo to finally win a personnel battle with Houston and drop a shortstop over the top?

There doesn’t seem to be much room for both Volpe and Peraza in the coming years in the Bronx, though Peraza might arrive first and keep Volpe’s seat warm to start 2023.

Is that hypothetical really worth losing a final chance at Castillo, and potentially a World Series, though? The Yankees “want” to keep everyone. It’s currently very unclear if they can, while also contending.