Yet another of this offseason’s best free agents exited the board when the Braves reeled in outfielder Marcell Ozuna on a one-year, $18MM guarantee Tuesday. Many high-profile free agents have earned more money than predicted this winter, but Ozuna’s one of the few standouts whose new deal checks in well south of expectations. For instance, MLBTR forecast in November that the former Marlin and Cardinal would come away with a three-year, $45MM guarantee.
With Ozuna no longer available, fellow outfielder Nicholas Castellanos is now unquestionably the No. 1 free agent in baseball. Those two have been closely linked for months, as they entered the winter as the premier unsigned outfielders and have been connected to some of the same teams via the open market. For what it’s worth, MLBTR originally tabbed Castellanos for a four-year, $58MM deal at the outset of the offseason. And as recently as December, the plurality of MLBTR readers who voted in a poll on Castellanos’ earning power said he’d make $55MM to $70MM.
Now, in the wake of Ozuna’s lighter-than-expected payday, perhaps you’re less bullish on Castellanos’ next contract. Age (28 in March) and a lack of a qualifying offer are working in Castellanos’ favor (Ozuna was stuck with a QO), as is his recent track record of above-average offensive production. On the other hand, Castellanos’ defensive shortcomings, initially at third base and then in the outfield, have been written about to death. Furthermore, it’s unclear just how large his market is now. The Braves could have been a fit for him, but they’re out now after signing Ozuna. The Marlins, Diamondbacks and White Sox were part of the Castellanos rumor mill earlier in the offseason, but they’ve addressed their needs in other ways since then. Castellanos was outstanding as a member of the Cubs in the second half of last season, though they’ve shown no willingness to spend a substantial amount on anyone so far this winter. Likewise, the Giants – even though they want to improve their offense – haven’t spent aggressively.
Teams like the Rangers, Cardinals, Reds and some mystery club(s) seem like the most logical suitors for Castellanos at this point. The Rangers have been connected to Castellanos more than anyone else of late, though they reportedly like him more as a first baseman than an outfielder. The Cardinals just lost Ozuna, potentially putting them in the market for a heavy hitter to replace him, but owner Bill DeWitt Jr. indicated this week that they’re all but tapped out from a payroll standpoint. The Reds, though, could arguably still stand to add an established corner outfield bat.
Regardless of where Castellanos plays next, do you expect him to follow in Ozuna’s footsteps and collect a more modest pact than expected? Or will Castellanos eventually become yet another of this offseason’s free agents to cash in big?
(Poll link for app users)