Well, there it is, folks: your big trade deadline acquisition. The Yankees traded Hoy-Jun Park and Diego Castillo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Clay Holmes today. That’ll solve the problem, right? In all seriousness, there’s not too much to get worked up about here. Let’s quickly break it down, shall we?
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: this is going to ruffle the feathers of some regular DoTF readers. That’s mostly because Park (25-years-old) and Castillo (23-years-old) have been killing it this year. Some fans have become fixated on Park in particular and hoped to see him get a shot in the Bronx this year. Makes sense given the state of things. And he’s been really good, and so has Castillo. To wit:
- Hoy-Jun Park, Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: .327/.475/.567 (177 wRC+) with exactly the same rate of walks and strikeouts (20.6% apiece)
- Diego Castillo, Double-A Somerset Patriots: .277/.345/.504 (127 wRC+) with a 13.7% strikeout rate against a career-best 8.4% walk rate
That all said, it’s important to pump the brakes a bit here. Park was a non-prospect coming into 2021. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs didn’t bother including him on the Yankees’ top 48 prospects before the season – though he did note that he had “average contact/patience” and could be a “bench infielder” – and Baseball America hasn’t written a scouting report on Park since 2016. It was nice to see him take a step forward, but a top prospect Park is not.
Castillo is the bigger loss. He’s younger and has really impressive bat-to-ball skills, striking out just 197 times in nearly 1,900 professional plate appearances. He topped out as the #27 ranked organizational prospect with Baseball America in 2018. But it’s still tough to see a future for Castillo with the Yanks, and he also is not a high-upside prospect.
More importantly, both Park and Castillo are Rule 5 eligible after the season. I noted this a few weeks ago in a mailbag and called them “interesting” cases because they’ve had good seasons but didn’t seem to be a great fit. This move helps clear some of that logjam.
In Clay Holmes, the Yankees get another reliever you’ve likely never heard of. The 28-year-old righty has 119.2 career innings, all with Pittsburgh, which explains that. He’s been in their pen on-and-off since 2018. As you probably guessed, given the Yankees, Holmes has an interesting profile.
First, he is a sinker baller who generates exceptional ground ball rates. He uses the sinker about 50% of the time in his career, though he also mixes in a curveball and slider. The sinker is hard, too, averaging north of 95-miles-per-hour in 2021. Here is a good illustration of that skill in action:
And yes, you’re seeing that correctly: that’s a GB% north of 70% on the season, which is enough to lead the league among all relievers with at least 30 innings pitched. He also limits hard contact, which is obviously a good thing – the average contact leaves opposing bats at just 86.6 miles-per-hour this year. Lots of grounders and soft contact. You could find a worse profile.
He should also have some success in Yankee Stadium, even though lefties (.368 wOBA) hit him better than righties (.298 wOBA). He’s allowed a few right-field homers, but this is a spray and heat chart that will work:
The big issue – barring health, as he was sidelined last year with a forearm strain that led him to be non-tendered in December – is the walks. He has a ridiculous 15% walk rate in his career (13.2% in 2021). Obviously, this limits his effectiveness and explains his career line of 5-7, 5.57 ERA (4.71 FIP). If, and this is always the if, the Yankees can make a tweak or two to reign in the command and control, there’s upside here. And even if not, he is a potentially useful middle-innings reliever. Lord knows the Yankees need those these days.
All in all, this is a fine trade. There is nothing to be angry about here. The Yanks cleared a Rule 5 logjam and added a bullpen piece. Let’s just hope that’s step one and not all they do before month’s end.