The Royals announced today their previously-reported deal with outfielder Hunter Renfroe, signing him to a one-year contract with a player option for 2025. In a corresponding move, right-hander Max Castillo has been designated for assignment.
Castillo, 24, was one of two prospects acquired in the 2022 trade that sent Whit Merrifield from Kansas City to Toronto. (Infielder/outfielder Samad Taylor was the other.) Castillo has logged big league time in each of the past two seasons, pitching to a combined 5.43 ERA in 59 2/3 frames.
Castillo has punched out a below-average 18.1% of his opponents against a higher-than average 9.3% walk rate. Castillo was quite homer-prone in 2022 but yielded just two long balls in 20 1/3 innings this past season (0.89 HR/9). However, his strikeout rate plummeted from 21.8% in ’22 to just 11.2% this past season as he greatly upped the usage of his slider at the expense of his four-seamer and changeup.
In parts of two Triple-A seasons, Castillo has posted a 4.43 ERA in 164 2/3 innings, showing solid command but below-average strikeout abilities in that time. As a prospect, he was viewed as a potential fifth starter or reliever. It’s possible that another club could yet help him reach that level, but the Royals’ aggressive offseason on the free agent market is clear proof that they’re ready to turn the page on some of the in-house options in whom they’d previously been holding out hope.
Castillo still has a minor league option remaining and won’t turn 25 until May, so he could hold some appeal to another club looking for pitching depth — one that hasn’t overhauled its roster by signing six free agents to big league deals and acquiring a seventh (Nick Anderson) via trade. Presumably, the Royals explored potential trades of Castillo before today’s DFA, as they’d previously moved Jonathan Heasley, Edward Olivares and Taylor Clarke in DFA-motivated trades. But another club could still be interested in a waiver claim or perhaps a cash swap if that hadn’t been on the table before.