10:08am: The Phillies have had recent talks with Castellanos, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. As he points out, Philadelphia president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was GM in Detroit when the Tigers selected Castellanos with the No. 44 overall draft pick.
7:36am: As a strong season for Nick Castellanos progressed in Cincinnati, it became increasingly obvious that the slugger would opt out of the remaining two years and $34MM on his contract in favor of a return to the free-agent market. Castellanos, however, is perhaps seeking an even larger payday than most would expect; MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that Castellanos and agent Scott Boras are eyeing a contract of seven or even eight years in length. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted this morning that the Marlins still have interest in Castellanos even after landing Avisail Garcia, though Feinsand suggests Castellanos’ asking price is too rich for Miami’s liking.
The 29-year-old Castellanos (30 in March) posted a huge .309/.362/.576 slash with 34 home runs, 38 doubles, a triple and three steals through 585 plate appearances this past season. Castellanos briefly missed time due to a microfracture in his wrist, but he shook off the rust almost immediately upon returning and closed out the year on a .294/.335/.606 heater through the final six weeks or so of play (176 plate appearances).
Excellent as Castellanos is and has been at the plate, seven and eight years are stills jarring numbers. Castellanos’ glovework has been consistently panned by defensive metrics — both at his original position (third base) and since moving to right field on a full-time basis in 2018. The 2021 season was no exception, as virtually any metric (-7 Defensive Runs Saved, -1.9 Ultimate Zone Rating, -7 Outs Above Average) framed Castellanos as a liability in right. He also rejected a qualifying offer from the Reds, meaning any team that signs him will be subject to draft-pick forfeiture.
To his credit, Castellanos is far from a one-year wonder — even if the 2021 season was his most productive to date. While a poor three-week finish in the shortened 2020 season tanked his season numbers, he still finished with league-average output, per both wRC+ and OPS+, and he’s been consistently strong at the dish outside that season. Both wRC+ and OPS+ suggest Castellanos has been about 22 percent better than the league-average hitter dating all the way back to 2016, and his bat truly soared to new heights upon being traded from the Tigers to Cubs. Even when including that average 2020 output, Castellanos carries a .292/.346/.571 batting line (134 wRC+) through 1052 plate appearances since leaving Detroit.
It’s commonplace for agents to aim for the moon in free agency, and while it can oftentimes burn a player, there are also deals of surprising magnitude each winter. (Few would’ve expected Marcus Semien to command a seven-year deal this winter, for instance.) It’d be a surprise to see Castellanos command such a weighty commitment, but he’s arguably the best bat available in free agency this offseason and would clearly benefit from the widely expected advent of the universal designated hitter.