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Colin Rea - Luis Castillo trade-back has its benefits and drawbacks

The Marlins dealt back a volatile piece in the now-injured Rea and got back one of their prospects, but it makes the Andrew Cashner look even worse.

St Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins traded back the injured Colin Rea to the San Diego Padres for former Marlins prospect Luis Castillo before the trade deadline ended on August 1 yesterday. It was an odd move that somehow fit the Marlins. Rea started a game for the Marlins, looked great doing so, but felt a twinge in his elbow that only got worse throughout the game. He exited with an elbow injury after his fourth strikeout of the game in the third inning, and the Marlins placed him on the disabled list. Then, that Monday, the Fish approached San Diego about a deal back and were supposedly livid that the Padres may have sold them damaged goods.

Presumably all players passed their physicals, so it is not as though the Marlins accepted players known to be injured. It seems unlikely the Padres were being malicious in intent by trading a known injured starter in Rea. At the same time, Rea had elbow issues that held him out of September starts last season, so that information was publicly known. All told, this seems like an unfortunate, unforeseeable incident that the Marlins took advantage of and the Padres were gracious in offering.

The problem is that, on the whole, the trade from a few days that acquired both Rea and Andrew Cashner from the Padres now looks worse. We talked about how the unexciting Rea would be the key to the trade because he was the player who held the long term value in the move. Cashner would help the rotation now, but Rea could help it in 2017 and beyond, and he flashed some skills of interest even this season. That was the only thing that could justify the cost of trading Josh Naylor, let alone with tag-alongs like injured reliever Carter Capps. It was still an overpay overall, but it was not a terribly egregious one before. Now the Marlins only got the short-term upgrade of Cashner, who probably would not have been worth trading Naylor for even in this depressed starting pitcher’s market. Rea provided the bulk of the value in this deal, and the Marlins lost out on it and still gave up their best prospect in Naylor along with added pieces.

Now the team still has a future issue with pitching, with the Marlins down starters for 2017 and beyond. They do get back Luis Castillo, who should get a look at Double-A this season. But the glut of low-ceiling guys like Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, Kendry Flores, and Jarlin Garcia still inspires no confidence, and Cashner is unlikely to return on a free agent deal at the end of the year. Half a season of Cashner is going to cost Miami a lot of future value.

The upside, of course, is that Rea today is not the guy who the Marlins thought they were getting four days ago. If the trade were left alone, the Marlins would have been receiving a pitcher who may eventually need surgical intervention on his elbow who already was back-of-the-rotation material for the time being. There was an argument that Rea had a shot of improvement if he got continued reps, but he would likely have missed all of 2017 if he had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Even if that does not end up being the outcome, an injured (or injury-prone) back-rotation guy with elbow concerns is too risky a bet to be the future value of this trade. The Marlins may not have had the moral authority to ask for Luis Castillo back, but they did, and the Padres accepted, making this individual transaction a good one.

Most prospect sources had Castillo as a top-five Marlins prospect after his repeat High-A season has gone so well. Of course, he is 23 years old pitching in High-A, but Rea was 24 years old when he broke out in Double-A in 2015, so it is not unreasonable to think Castillo has a shot at being a prospect. The jump to Double-A is still the critical move; Rea broke out at that level, which made him more intriguing. Castillo is still pitching in Roger Dean Stadium, one of the pitcher-friendliest parks in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Still, at this stage, with a potentially bad elbow injury looming, the Padres probably gave back the higher value player in Castillo.

Overall, the first deal got worse, but the Marlins recouped a good amount of value yesterday by trading a highly volatile asset for Castillo, who may have more value at this point. Whether the Marlins did the moral thing in abandoning Rea after trading for him is another story, but in terms of a strictly business perspective, the second deal was the right one for the Fish.