Yanks Trade Hoy-Jun Park, Diego Castillo to Pirates for RHP Clay Holmes

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.

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19 Comments

  1. Mungo

    Uggh. I missed this deal yesterday. I was wondering who the new pitcher they were referring to tonight.

  2. Luke

    Rooting for this guy. Seen enough of Brooks Kriske for a lifetime.

    But yeah, I think is a situation where the Yankees are being proactive and not wanting to lose value (even limited) for nothing.

  3. Dani

    It’s not a terrible trade but I don’t see how this trade helps now or in the future.

  4. RetroRob

    I used to have these arguments back on RAB whenever a player such as Refsynder would come up, or a bunch of other minor leaguers who had nice stats, but simply weren’t prospects. They’re not prospects. In fairness, Refs was a better prospect than Park because of his bat potential, although even he was pegged to be no more than a platoon bat on a 2nd division club if all went well, or a bench piece on a team like the Yankees. (He was supposed to be a placeholder until Gleyber arrived.) Refs failed to even achieve either of those, although he is attempting once again with the Twins. They’re not as good as you think they are. That’s Park. Fungible. That doesn’t mean he won’t stick on a MLB roster, just as Wade has stuck on the Yankees roster, and even have some success, but he’s also replaceable. Wade’s skills, I’m sorry to say, are better than Park’s. Holmes has more value to the Yankees as he’s someone they can control (and has options) through 2022. Bullpen arms are more valuable than the Park’s of the world. Ditto when the Yankees sent Tauchman off for a bullpen arm. (BTW, Don’t be surprised if the Giants designate Tauchman soon.)

    This is a deal of little consequence, and maybe that’s the saddest part of all.

    • Ref is only hitting a measly .321 with an .871 OPS. God forbid we have that on our ballclub when we have the likes of Tyler Wade and Brett Gardner. Cash always seems to give away our good players and keep the bad ones.

      • Nick

        Crashman has made sure that we will never have a “ core youth movement “ like we had when Gene Michael’s and Buck developed our team. Bernie, Jeter, Posada, Mariano and Petite. His failed player philosophy is to trade good young talent for mediocre experienced players.

  5. dasit

    70% ground rate + yankee infield = errors
    95 mph sinker + gary sanchez = passed balls
    more tyler wade + even more tyler wade = despair

    • Alex

      And even when the infielders don’t make errors, they’re usually completely out of position because the Yankees legitimately have the worst defensive positioning/shifting I’ve ever seen. Not sure if Carlos Mendoza is still in charge of that but whoever is should have been gone a long time ago.

      And also, Tyler Wade freaking sucks.

  6. Madrugador

    I don’t think another reliever makes a material difference. Happy for Park. Hope he is successful with the Pirates. Was living off a high BaBip so maybe he’s a bust. We’ll see.

  7. Esteddardban Florial

    Trades like this are the reason we’ve been stuck in mediocrity the past 12 years, Bobby. Park has the ceiling of an Ohtani or a Hideki. They brought him up and didn’t even give him a chance and then dumped him and then traded him and then unfriended him on Facebook. And Castillo will be the next Roberto Clemente for them. Credit Pitt. They got themselves two stars and only gave up a garbage 5 ERA reliever. The only thing I woulda given up for Holmes is a bucket of chewed up sunflower seeds. Ninja Cash strikes again!

    • Nick

      Dzb, you summed up the concerns and fears of all Yankee fans living through the unsuccessful Crashman era. With all of the Yanks resources, he has only cobbled together one Championship over 20 plus years. Gene Michael and Buck developed the 4 WS championships from 1996-2000. In contrast, the rival Red Sox have had 4 championships in the last 17 years to one for Crashman in 20 plus years. The Giants have a few in recent years. Halice in wonderland and his GM have a failed business model for winning championships. We hear nothing but empty excuses for this organizations failures. The Red Sox have had their success by changing GM’s and Managers during this successfully winning period for them. Contrast that with Hal’s stuborness to stick with the same unsuccessful GM for over 20 years.

  8. Dzb

    The Park love is overblown. People seem to forget he just cleared waivers. If he’s so great, why wouldn’t a single team offer him a roster spot? Also, I believe he can become a minor league free agent, not just Rule Five eligible. They sort of did what they have to do. They need to consolidate the fringe prospects who will need roster spots. A promising arm seems like a decent return.

  9. Jacques

    We have seen in the past five seasons Tyler Wade cannot hit. We are also currently using Triple-A outfielders in our everyday lineup. Why couldn’t the Yankees rolled the dice on Park first who can play anywhere, and then figure what to do after the season? He essentially has all the capabilities Wade has. If he succeeds, great. If not, then dump/trade him, considering he is not a hot prospect anyway. Is Castillo+Park package really worth trading for a C+ reliever? Or is Cashman more concerned about the roster jam that will become a concern regardless at the end of the year?

    Fire Boone, and Cashman follows. Time for change.

    • Alex

      Cashman has had an unhealthy obsession with Tyler Wade for years. This isn’t the first time he’s legitimately cleared roster spots so that guy’s position on the 40-man is seemingly never threatened.

      Cashman is more keen on keeping “his guys” at all costs (Wade, Kriske, Nelson, Gardner no matter how old he gets) than properly evaluating talent in the system (Roansy Contreras, Garrett Whitlock) and making decisions in the best interest of the organization. He cannot be fired soon enough.

    • Nick

      Any other organization’s evaluating Parks stats would have held on to him to make sure the team found somewhere for him to develop.

  10. Alex

    Another dumb Cashman trade. Park would be a clear upgrade over Wade and the carcass of Brett Gardner even if he struggled. I’m not even going to pretend to understand Cashman’s logic behind moves anymore. Every year he brings in his pet project reliever with bloated ERAs who can’t throw strikes and they NEVER pan out. He will be wrong though, just like he’s been with every move he’s made this year.

  11. Eugene White

    Awesome. Another ground ball pitcher to make use of the championship-caliber infield defense.

    I’m fighting the urge to prospect-hump here; this is fine.

    • Zooboy

      Another guy for Boone to bring in a batter too late while the out-of-position shortstop plays back to not cut off the losing run. Wonderful. Yay Ca$hman.

    • Brian

      I was gonna say, another ground ball pitcher isn’t what this infield defense needs. This was as much as selling high on two guys and getting _something_ instead of being lost for nothing as minor league free agents/Rule 5 guys. This is less a baseball move and (and not really a money move) and more of an Ops move to get things in order for the 40 man roster. If it was purely about money then the Yankees would have taken the opportunity to save $30K and use Park over Wade (which may be better anyway).

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