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The Miami Marlins reached an agreement Thursday to acquire starting pitcher Dan Straily in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds in return for a package headlined by pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice.
The Reds confirmed they had moved Straily in exchange for Castillo and Brice and outfielder Isaiah White. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the trade was close.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports provided further details about the Reds’ plan for the pitchers:
Brice likely to start in #Reds’ bullpen or AAA rotation. Castillo, the main target, likely to start at AA, maintains 97-100 mph as starter.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2017
Straily, a former promising prospect in the Oakland Athletics organization, is coming off his best MLB season to date with the Reds in 2016. The right-hander posted a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 162 strikeouts in 191.1 innings across 34 appearances, including 31 starts.
The 28-year-old Marshall product enjoyed initial success with the A’s, accumulating an ERA slightly under 4.00 across his first two seasons. His numbers dropped off in a major way with Oakland and the Chicago Cubs in 2014, however, and he struggled again with the Houston Astros the following year.
Surprisingly, he managed to get his career back on track despite playing his home games in the bandbox known as Great American Ball Park. The Reds’ home stadium ranked fourth in baseball in terms of home runs per game last year, per ESPN.com.
While Straily wasn’t immune to the park factors, giving up 31 homers, his splits were interesting. He was much better at home, finishing with a 2.90 ERA and 13 home runs allowed, compared to a 4.70 ERA and 18 home runs allowed on the road in the same number of outings.
Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer passed along comments from the veteran starter last September about his mindset when it comes to giving up the long ball.
“I don’t go to work every fifth day and think, ‘Oh, let’s try not to give up home runs today,'” Straily said. “When I get through a game and there are no home runs, it’s like, ‘Sweet.’ But some of those days when I do give up home runs, that’s usually all the runs I give up. I’d rather do that than give up back-to-back doubles.”
The advanced numbers do provide some cause for concern. His 3.76 ERA last season was a career best, but his xFIP checked in at 5.02, per FanGraphs. That’s mostly due to his low batting average on balls in play (.239) and high left-on-base percentage (81.2).
Ultimately, the Marlins are betting their more spacious stadium can rectify Straily’s problems with the home run. Marlins Park ranked 26th in home runs per game in 2016. But that alone doesn’t mean he’ll start posting No. 1 or No. 2 starter numbers.
That’s what Miami is likely hoping for following the trade, though. It will enter the new season without a clear-cut ace following the death of Jose Fernandez in September. So the team will look to fill the void in the aggregate.
Straily is set to join a rotation that also features Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler and Edinson Volquez. The fifth spot will probably get decided during spring training, with Jeff Locke looming as the early favorite. It has the makings of a solid, albeit far from star-studded, group.
Meanwhile, the Reds receive a pair of potential impact pitchers in the deal. MLB.com ranked Castillo fifth and Brice ninth in the Marlins’ prospect pool before the trade.
Castillo, 24, finished with a 2.26 ERA across stops at two levels of the minors last year. Brice, 24, was also impressive with a 2.74 ERA during stints in Double-A and Triple-A. While his first cup of coffee in the majors resulted in a 7.07 ERA, his WHIP was 1.00, and he struck out 14 batters in 14 innings.