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Can you imagine Luis Castillo leading the Marlins rotation? It could’ve happened!

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Four years ago, on January 19, the Marlins traded Castillo and two others to the Reds for Dan Straily.

Cincinnati Reds v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s true the Marlins have a good, promising rotation entering 2021, but can you imagine what the starting staff would look like with young Dominican Luis Castillo leading the group?

Yes. I’m bringing that Luis Castillo into the conversation. The one who’s pitching and dominating the tough NL Central for the Cincinnati Reds. The one who just turned 28 years old. The one whose name has been entangled in trade rumors this offseason.

Castillo is no stranger to this side of the baseball business. On January 19, 2017, exactly four years ago, the Marlins made a transaction that they are still regretting (although the Jeffrey Loria/David Samson regime was responsible for it, not the current decision-makers). They sent Castillo, RHP Austin Brice—who finished 2015 as the organization’s 16th-best prospect—and prospect OF Zeek White to the Reds for the then-28-year-old Dan Straily.

Straily was coming off a respectable 2016 season where even though he had a 14-8 record and a 3.76 ERA across 191 13 innings, his advanced stats suggested he couldn’t maintain that success (4.88 FIP, .239 BABIP, 4.39 xERA, to name a few).

And those stats proved to be right. Though Straily wasn’t bad for Miami, he only pitched two years for the Marlins before they suddenly released him on March 25, 2019. He was 15-15, 4.20 ERA, and struck out 269 hitters across 304 frames (56 starts). Now, after brief stints with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, he’s playing with the Lotte Giants in Korea.

On the other side, there was Castillo. Immediately, he became the eighth-best prospect in Cincinnati and ended up blossoming into one of the pitching stars of the National League. While Straily struggled for the Marlins, Castillo debuted in the Majors with Cincinnati and gave us a hint of what was around the corner for him.

Baseball-Reference

And in case you’re wondering about his 2020 Baseball Savant profile, we brought it to you (don’t cry):

Baseball Savant

Pouring salt in the wound, Castillo has been especially fantastic since then in his four head-to-head matchups with the Fish.

Fish Stripes original GIF

It’s hard to cope with, but you can understand why the Marlins acquired Straily. After all, there was still a tiny window to contend in 2017 and they needed a good, established starting pitcher. Even though Castillo’s potential was evident, he needed the first few months of that season to continue refining his game in the minors.

Regarding Brice, he was back with the Fish and served as a good reliever in 2019, but pitched for the Boston Red Sox in ‘20. In the case of White, things haven’t panned out (no experience above the Low-A level).

Four years ago, the Marlins sent away a future stud in Luis Castillo. And now the only way they’d be able to bring him back would be mortgaging even more of the future.