Top Landing Spots for Reds RF Nick Castellanos Amid Contract Opt-Out Rumors
Though he still has plenty of time to change his mind, it doesn't sound like right fielder Nick Castellanos is long for the Cincinnati Reds.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Castellanos is "likely" to opt out of the two years and $34 million remaining on his contract with the Reds, which isn't terribly surprising, considering that he's 29 years old and in the midst of an All-Star campaign marked by a .936 OPS and 24 home runs.
Assuming Castellanos does opt out after the 2021 season is over, the next question would be obvious: Where might he end up?
By considering where his talents are needed and which teams might be able to afford him this winter, we narrowed down a list of his top five potential suitors. But first, some honorable mentions.
There would, of course, technically be nothing stopping the Reds from re-signing Castellanos if he does opt out. And they would surely want to, as he's provided a good return on the Reds' initial $64 million investment.
The catch is that the Reds would likely have to stretch their budget to re-accommodate Castellanos. They're already operating with one of their highest all-time payrolls, and they aren't looking at much in the way of salary relief this winter.
Castellanos was a revelation in 51 games for the Cubs down the stretch of 2019, hitting .321 with a 1.002 OPS and 16 home runs. In Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times, at least one local wants him back.
Yet, the unknowns here are twofold. For one, will the Cubs be ready to spend so soon after blowing up their roster at the trade deadline? For two, would Castellanos trust in their contention window enough to hop back aboard?
Though the Nationals already have a pretty good right fielder, they're going to need some right-handed thump if they want to return to contention in 2022 after they also blew up their roster at the deadline. If they like Castellanos for the job, Juan Soto could easily move back to left field to make room.
Like with the Cubs, though, whether the Nats are willing to go that route and whether Castellanos would want to join up will be the big questions.
5. Miami Marlins
If the Miami Marlins take an interest in Castellanos this winter, perhaps he'd be all too happy to come home.
He played his high school ball less than an hour's drive from Miami in Southwest Ranches, Florida, and even committed to the University of Miami before the Detroit Tigers drafted him 44th overall in 2010.
Though the Marlins have gotten good production—i.e., a .774 OPS and 2.9 rWAR—out of right field this season, most of that came before they sent Adam Duvall to Atlanta in July. Plus, the club has also gotten just a .398 slugging percentage from the right side this season.
Though the Marlins have yet to spend big bucks in free agency since Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter took over in 2017, that could potentially change this winter. They've built up a promising core of young talent throughout a multi-year rebuild, and their books contain only one guaranteed contract for 2022 and beyond.
Yet this is hardly a guarantee that the Marlins are ready to spend as much as $100 million on one player. Even if they were, Castellanos might not want a homecoming as badly as a more immediate shot at a World Series ring.
4. Detroit Tigers
If not a homecoming of one sort with the Marlins, maybe Castellanos will make a homecoming of another sort with the Tigers this winter.
By the time the Tigers traded Castellanos to the Cubs in July 2019, he had been with the organization for nearly a decade. Though his actual son, Alex, is also a major leaguer, general manager Al Avila said of Castellanos at the time: "I look at him like a son, almost."
Things were pretty grim in Detroit when Castellanos left, but less so now that the team's rebuild is beginning to bear fruit. After finishing in last place four times between 2015 and 2020, the Tigers are now in third place in the American League Central at 62-70.
With the 0.7 rWAR and .694 OPS that the Tigers have gotten out of the position in 2021, though, right field is a significant area of need. More generally, Castellanos would also give Detroit a big bopper to build its lineup around.
Avila has previously hinted that the coming winter could herald the Tigers' return to spending big bucks in free agency. If so, he might only have to sell Castellanos on the team's contention timeline.
3. San Diego Padres
Even though he'll surely draw interest from rebuilding teams, Castellanos is also sure to feel the pull from win-now contenders.
Among that lot, the San Diego Padres aren't an obvious fit for Castellanos as of now. Their outfield is simply too crowded, with Trent Grisham, Wil Myers, Tommy Pham, and, of late, Fernando Tatis Jr. all vying for playing time.
Come the winter, though, Pham will be a free agent, and the club is almost certain to plan on having Tatis back at shortstop in 2022. That would mean an opening for Castellanos, who the Padres could see as an easy fix for the .237 average they've gotten from the right side of the plate this season.
Whether the Padres could make the financials work is another question. They opened this season with by far their highest-ever payroll, and there won't be much money coming off their books this winter.
If, however, they find a way to unload first baseman Eric Hosmer and the $73 million remaining on his contract through 2025, Castellanos could go to San Diego for both the money and a chance to re-team with fellow Miami native Manny Machado.
2. New York Mets
Javier Baez may not like it, but boos are simply inevitable when a club's chances of making the playoffs go from north of 90 percent to south of five percent in just a few short months.
On the plus side, 2021 won't be the end of the line for the New York Mets as contenders.
They went all-in last winter after Steve Cohen bought the team last fall, and this year's disappointment will likely only strengthen his resolve and, more to the point, open his checkbook.
To this end, the .234 average and .393 slugging percentage that the team has gotten from the right side in 2021 paint a picture of a clear need. That's where Castellanos would come in, and there would be an obvious place for him to play if the Mets don't re-sign Michael Conforto to play right field.
Even if they do bring back Conforto, that wouldn't necessarily preclude a deal with Castellanos. If the designated hitter becomes permanently universal starting in 2022, the Mets could open up a lineup spot by moving Dominic Smith from left field to first base and Pete Alonso from first base to DH.
1. Chicago White Sox
Out of this year's top World Series contenders, most already boast star- or even superstar-level talents in right field.
The one exception? The Chicago White Sox, of course.
The Pale Hose started the season with Adam Eaton in right field, but he only lasted 58 games before earning his release. The position hasn't stabilized since he left, as it's now marked by just 0.7 rWAR and a .706 OPS.
Though Castellanos—who was notably on the team's radar after 2019—would be the best possible upgrade for the White Sox on the free-agent market, signing him would require a budget stretch. They're operating with the highest payroll in their history as is, with little salary relief upcoming this winter.
But should they ultimately fall short of their first World Series since 2005, the White Sox might nonetheless deem it necessary to go beyond their comfort zone for Castellanos. With him alongside Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Yasmani Grandal, the White Sox would have more than enough firepower to chase championships in 2022 and beyond.