Nick Castellanos had the best two months of his career in 2019 after he was traded to the Cubs from the Tigers and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the 27-year-old free agent. Now, he’ll be looking to cash in, but despite his 1.002 OPS in the last 51 games of the season Castellanos has plenty of red flags attached to him this offseason.
He has every intangible a team could want and there was no question that Castellanos thrived in a playoff race, while his gap-to-gap approach only got better and led to a higher output on offense away from Detroit. Yet, there are question marks and it’s difficult to really pinpoint a price range for the outfielder.
Castellanos has improved offensively in each season since making his MLB debut in 2013 other than a slight step back in 2017. Following his hellacious pace to finish 2019 with the Cubs, Castellanos posted a career high .862 OPS. For his career, he’s at a .797 OPS.
Despite the promise of Castellanos’ offense, ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield listed the outfielder as the free agent most likely to be the biggest bust.
Here’s what Schoenfield wrote in his, “2019-20 MLB free agent class superlatives: The player most likely to …,” article on ESPN when it comes to the risk of a team signing Castellanos.
Guy most likely to be the biggest bust:Nicholas Castellanos.
Last year, the answer was A.J. Pollock, mostly due to concerns about his injury history and leaving a hitter-friendly environment. Pollock had value because he was the only legitimate center fielder in free agency, but sure enough he got hurt and played only 86 games. He wasn’t really a bust, although he was a platoon player by the postseason.
Castellanos likewise has a profile with some big pluses and big concerns. He can obviously hit, coming off his best season in which he bashed 58 doubles and hit .289/.337/.525 — including a 51-game stretch with the Cubs when he hit .321 and slugged .646. But he’s a below-average corner outfielder who doesn’t walk much and might get paid based on those two months in Chicago. At $15 million or so per season, he’s probably fine for three or four years. But a big annual average deal and more years could be risky for a guy who ends up as a DH in a couple of years.
The thing is, Castellanos most likely won’t get more than a four-year deal, so even under Schoenfield reasoning, there isn’t that high of a risk for a team. Of course, if a team completely outbids itself and offers Castellanos a six-year deal, then yeah it’ll probably end poorly.
For what it’s worth, early projections have Castellanos getting a three or four years between $14 million and $15 million per year. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year deal worth $58 million for Castellanos.
So far this offseason there have been indications that the White Sox and Cubs are interested in pursuing Castellanos.
The GM meetings are this week. Let’s get those rumors going!