Ranking the Top 10 Landing Spots for Nick Castellanos in MLB Free Agency
Nick Castellanos had the best season of his career in 2021, posting a .309/.362/.576 slash line along with a 140 wRC+ and 4.2 fWAR. His slugging percentage ranked third in the National League, behind only NL MVP Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr.
It should come as no surprise that the 29-year-old right fielder opted out of his contract with the Cincinnati Reds with two years and $34 million left on his deal to become a free agent.
The Reds likely can't afford to re-sign him. In November, general manager Nick Krall told reporters he needed to "align our payroll to our resources" moving forward.
Whenever the MLB lockout ends, Castellanos should be in high demand. Here's a look at his potential landing spots, ranked by fit, team need and willingness to spend.
10. Cleveland Guardians
The Cleveland Guardians did not address their biggest need before the lockout: offense. They ranked 21st in MLB in OPS last year.
Signing Castellanos would upgrade the Guardians offensively and at right field, where they could desperately use him. The Guardians just broke their streak of eight consecutive winning seasons in 2021, and Castellanos could help get them back there.
The question is how much they're willing to spend. Castellanos and agent Scott Boras are reportedly seeking a contract in the seven- to eight-year range, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB Network. But Cleveland has never handed out a free-agent deal higher than Edwin Encarnacion's three-year, $60 million contract in 2016.
It would likely take an unprecedented move by this franchise to land Castellanos.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays' priority going into this offseason was replacing AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and infielder Marcus Semien, both of whom signed elsewhere in free agency.
The Blue Jays signed pitcher Kevin Gausman to a five-year, $110 million deal before the lockout. They should also prioritize extensions for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez.
Still, the Blue Jays could play Castellanos in right field and as designated hitter. His bat would punctuate an offense which already had MLB's highest OPS and the most home runs.
There have been no serious reports linking Castellanos to Toronto, but he is a viable fit for a team that figures to compete for the next few years.
8. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers seem less likely to sign Castellanos after committing more than a half-billion dollars to four free agents in the span of 48 hours. Specifically, the far less expensive deal for outfielder Kole Calhoun (one year, $5.2 million with 2023 club option for $5.5 million) points to Texas going in a different direction.
Yet Castellanos could still fit on the Rangers. He could play either corner outfield spot, and possibly first base if needed. But Castellanos would be an obvious designated hitter candidate for Texas over the length of his contract, too.
The question is whether the Rangers are willing to hand out another seven- or eight-year deal.
Corey Seager signed a 10-year, $325 million contract. Marcus Semien's contract is worth $175 million over seven years. Jon Gray signed for four years and $56 million.
7. Colorado Rockies
An outfielder should be the Colorado Rockies' No. 1 target in free agency, and Castellanos is among the best available. His power would play well at Coors Field and give the Rockies a franchise player after they lost Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in back-to-back years.
The Rockies currently have only $90.8 million on their payroll, but they're poised to spend more once the lockout ends. Team president Greg Feasel told reporters in October that the Rockies would "gain ground" in 2022 and then increase their spending to 2018 and 2019 levels by 2023 (between $147 million and $152 million, as opposed to $119.9 million in 2021).
"There is payroll room to add talent," MLB.com's Thomas Harding wrote in November. "Not to mention anticipation on the part of a fanbase that enjoyed postseason trips in 2017 and 2018 only to be shocked back into a fourth-place existence in the National League West each of the last three seasons."
Signing Castellanos would be a tremendous step for Colorado.
6. Miami Marlins
Castellanos is probably out of the Miami Marlins' price range since they've had one of MLB's lowest payrolls for the past few years. But the Marlins do reportedly have interest in him, and his South Florida roots make it an intriguing fit.
In mid-November, MLB Network's Jon Morosi the Marlins were among the teams interested in Castellanos. He noted the outfielder graduated from high school about 25 miles away from LoanDepot Park.
The Marlins already made significant moves before the lockout by signing outfielder Avisail Garcia to a four-year, $53 million contract and trading for infielder Joey Wendle. Adding Castellanos would be the next logical step in Miami.
5. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos hit big with his trade deadline acquisitions of Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson. All of them made substantial contributions to the Braves' World Series run.
However, three of them—Soler, Rosario and Pederson—are now free agents.
Addressing the outfield is among Atlanta's greatest offseason needs. Anthopoulos has to remake this outfield one way or another, and signing Castellanos would make sense if the in-house players get away, especially if the Braves also lose franchise icon Freddie Freeman in free agency.
The money that the Braves would have committed to Freeman could go to Castellanos, who is coming off a career season in Cincinnati.
4. San Diego Padres
Before the lockout, Bob Nightengale of MLB Network reported the San Diego Padres were "showing strong interest" in Castellanos, but he said nothing was imminent.
The Padres already have a solid core of outfielders with Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham and Wil Myers. But they're also likely to lose Tommy Pham in free agency, leaving a spot to fill in the outfield.
Castellanos would be an upgrade for an already talented lineup. He could also just hit for the Padres if the next collective bargaining agreement incorporates the universal designated hitter.
Castellanos would provide much-needed outfield depth and help an underachieving offense which ranked 15th in batting average (.242) and 23rd in home runs (180).
With the Padres only $330,000 below the luxury tax, it would take a willingness to go deep into the tax or move other contracts.
3. San Francisco Giants
Much like the Miami Marlins, the San Francisco Giants are one of the teams reported to be interested in Castellanos, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. They just happen to be the best among them.
Castellanos and the Giants are both coming off their best-ever regular seasons. Coming together makes sense for both sides, as Castellanos would get a chance to play for a contender, while San Francisco would get a player who fills an everyday need in the outfield.
The Giants' rebuild was accelerated last season when they went an MLB-best 107-55, and they have money to spend this offseason.
Reports indicate that the Giants are lukewarm on Kris Bryant after trading for him at the deadline last year. Aside from addressing their starting pitching, either re-signing Bryant or replacing him in the middle of the lineup has to be a focus for San Francisco.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
In November, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the Philadelphia Phillies had been in contact with Castellanos' representation. Morosi also noted that Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was the Detroit Tigers' president and general manager when Castellanos was Detroit's top pick in 2010.
The Phillies would have some positional redundancy if they were to sign Castellanos. Both he and NL MVP Bryce Harper have both played almost exclusively in right field over the past few seasons.
But either one could move to left field (most likely Castellanos). And he would otherwise immediately bolster a Phillies lineup which toiled in the middle of the pack last season in OPS and most offensive categories.
Philadelphia needs to acquire at least two outfielders, with not much past Harper and Matt Vierling on the depth chart. Castellanos could help them solve that problem.
1. Chicago White Sox
Right field is a major area of concern for the Chicago White Sox, and Castellanos would be an immediate solution. They are built to contend, but they appeared to hit a ceiling last year against the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
The White Sox can't afford to just run it back without making major moves and expect different results. They have two consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances after nearly a decade of losing.
With the American League Central relatively weak for now, the White Sox still have a window if they add some key pieces. Castellanos would be an obvious upgrade over Adam Eaton in right field and would add a middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup.
The White Sox also have the money to make it work. They're currently $16 million below the luxury tax and have the ability to move contracts.
Payroll figures via Spotrac.