As comparable bat-first players, Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber were the topic of a Free Agent Faceoff post by Darragh McDonald last week. Back on November 8th, MLBTR projected a five-year, $115MM contract for Castellanos (who also requires draft pick compensation) and a four-year, $70MM deal for Schwarber.
We debated whether such a financial gap makes sense – is Castellanos really that much better right now? Ultimately we projected the difference to represent our guess at the perception of the two players: Castellanos has always been a regular in his career and signed a four-year, $64MM free agent deal already, while Schwarber was non-tendered after the 2020 season and was often shielded against lefties as a member of the Cubs. We could be wrong about this supposed difference in perception; the post-lockout market will provide the answer. On November 29th, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweeted that Castellanos sought a seven or eight-year deal.
Since switching to the outfield full-time in 2018, Castellanos has spent the vast majority of his defensive innings in right field. Schwarber settled in as a left fielder as of 2017, though the Red Sox used him as a first baseman in 10 regular season games plus another nine in the postseason. In a perfect world, both players might spend most of their time at designated hitter, which seems likely to become a permanent part of the National League in 2022. One key difference between the two is that Castellanos bats right-handed, and Schwarber bats left-handed. Let’s take a look at potential suitors.
- White Sox: Eloy Jimenez is entrenched in left field and Jose Abreu will play first base in ’22, but the Sox could consider an upgrade at right field or designated hitter, where Adam Engel, Andrew Vaughn, and Gavin Sheets currently project to see time. Signing Castellanos would result in the club forfeiting their second-highest draft pick in ’22 and having their international signing pool reduced by $500K, assuming rules from the previous CBA carry over for the remainder of the offseason. I don’t see the White Sox making this level of financial commitment with decent options already in-house.
- Guardians: The Guardians’ DH spot is occupied by Franmil Reyes, but they don’t have much going on at the outfield corners and figure to make some sort of addition. The franchise has never guaranteed a player more than the $60MM they gave Carlos Santana five years ago. It’s possible the price tag for Castellanos or Schwarber falls into that range. The Guardians have perhaps $36MM accounted for across eight players earning more than the league minimum. Aside from Jose Ramirez at $12MM, they might not have another player set to earn more than $5MM in 2022. If the team runs a $50MM Opening Day payroll again, then Castellanos and Schwarber won’t be part of it, but the team reached $135MM as recently as 2018. The Guardians also face a smaller draft pick penalty, as they’d surrender only their third-highest pick for Castellanos.
- Tigers: Castellanos was a first round draft pick of the Tigers in 2010 and remained with the organization until his 2019 trade to the Cubs. On the way out, he called Comerica Park “a joke,” so he’s probably not looking to return. Aside from that, Castellanos would actually look really good at an outfield corner or the DH spot for the Tigers, and their draft pick compensation would be reduced since they already signed Eduardo Rodriguez. But the club hasn’t given indications it’s looking to upgrade at those spots, so both Castellanos and Schwarber are probably out.
- Royals: The Royals have never given a free agent more than $72MM, and that was their own guy in Alex Gordon. Otherwise, I think adding one of these players at right field or DH would improve the club.
- Twins: The Twins could upgrade on projected left fielder Trevor Larnach, but given the state of their starting rotation this doesn’t seem likely.
- Red Sox: Though they traded for Schwarber during the summer, I’m not sure a big commitment to either player is necessary or fits Chaim Bloom’s m.o. They’ve got good first base options in Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas. J.D. Martinez has the DH spot at least for 2022. Boston’s outfield is a bit unsettled with the swap of Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr., but they’ve still got Alex Verdugo, Kiké Hernández, and Jarren Duran in the mix. Hernandez could play second base and Schwarber or Castellanos could work here, if Bloom is OK with the commitment. Bloom did maintain interest in Schwarber in his public comments, even after Martinez opted in.
- Yankees: The Yankees have Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo at the outfield corners, Giancarlo Stanton at DH, and Luke Voit at first base. Adding Castellanos or Schwarber doesn’t make much sense. They still haven’t added a shortstop or starting pitching.
- Rays: The Rays have never given a free agent more than $30MM in the Stuart Sternberg era. They’re also flush with outfielders, even if they’re not at the proven offensive levels of Castellanos and Schwarber. Perhaps if the bottom drops out for Schwarber’s market, the Rays trade away an outfielder or two, and they decide they’d like a big bat, this could make sense. But it’s highly unlikely.
- Blue Jays: Between right field and DH, the Jays could accommodate Castellanos or Schwarber. A third baseman would seem a more obvious fit, but the Jays could pivot to one of these bats if needed or even add at both spots.
- Astros: There’s simply not a spot for either player, with Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel already in tow.
- Angels: Adding Castellanos or Schwarber would involve pushing aside Brandon Marsh or Jo Adell, who have had limited success in the Majors thus far. It’s not out of the question, but the Angels have more pressing needs at shortstop and in the rotation. The Angels would have to give up their third-highest pick to sign Castellanos, having already forfeited their second rounder to sign Noah Syndergaard.
- Mariners: It’d be odd to see the Mariners sign Castellanos or Schwarber instead of extending Mitch Haniger, who has one more year of team control. Uber-prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are long-term outfield answers, and Kyle Lewis is also in the mix. You could shoehorn in one of the free agent bats in Seattle, but it’s not an ideal fit. The Mariners would surrender only their fourth-highest pick for signing Castellanos, having already signed Robbie Ray.
- Rangers: The Rangers have already lost their second and third-highest draft picks in 2022 for signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. They’d give up their fourth-rounder to sign Castellanos. You could view that as a lessened draft pick penalty, or you might say that the team won’t be inclined to further decimate their draft. Kole Calhoun is slated to spend time in right field for the Rangers, but both outfield corners and DH are possible areas of upgrade. Unless the Rangers have mostly reached their spending or draft pick forfeiture limit, Castellanos and Schwarber make sense here.
If the National League gets the DH, Castellanos and Schwarber could fit position-wise into any of these teams, since none of them actually have an incumbent DH.
- Cubs: The Cubs’ decision to non-tender Schwarber looked foolish in 2021, but I don’t expect them to respond by signing him to a large free agent contract. Castellanos was a popular, productive player in his brief time with the Cubs, and he could supplant Jason Heyward in right field. But even if Castellanos’ demands dropped into the Cubs’ comfort zone (probably three years), the club would likely be reluctant to surrender their second-round draft pick. If somehow Castellanos is not liking the offers (and perhaps the season starts late), perhaps he could pull a Keuchel/Kimbrel and sign after the draft. In that case I could see the Cubs becoming interested, but it’s a long shot.
- Reds: With the club in cost-cutting mode, they’re not expected to re-sign Castellanos or any other big free agent.
- Brewers: The Brewers are set on the outfield corners with Christian Yelich and Hunter Renfroe. DH is open, and there could be first base at-bats as well, but I think payroll restrictions would be the issue here unless one of the players drops his demands and/or they clear salary.
- Cardinals: With Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Paul Goldschmidt, the clearest path to playing time would be at DH. The Cardinals are not out of the question, but it’d be a surprise.
- Braves: The Braves have Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall slated for the outfield corners. It’s unclear what they plan to do with Ozuna following last year’s domestic violence incident. I could see the Braves looking into Castellanos or Schwarber at three years or fewer, but probably only in a scenario where Freddie Freeman signs elsewhere.
- Marlins: As a native of Hialeah, Florida, Castellanos has often been linked to the Marlins. They already signed Avisail Garcia to play right field, but were said to still be in the market for outfielders. On December 2nd, Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald wrote that the club viewed Castellanos as too expensive, but Schwarber “particularly appeals to them.” Jackson and Mish reported that Schwarber’s asking price was in the three-year, $60MM range.
- Mets: The Mets could potentially squeeze in one of these players at DH, though the rotation would seem to be a greater priority. Castellanos is likely out, as signing him would require the Mets to forfeit the #14 pick in the draft.
- Phillies: The Phillies could add a bat at left field or DH, though neither Castellanos or Schwarber would help with their center field void. There’s a Dave Dombrowski-Castellanos connection from their time in Detroit together, and they’re known to have had contact prior to the lockout. The club reportedly pursued Schwarber as well.
- Nationals: The Nats could use Schwarber back in left field or at DH, but signing either player long-term wouldn’t fit as part of a reboot. Still, asked if he wants Schwarber back, GM Mike Rizzo replied, “Why wouldn’t we?” back in November. Starting pitching would seem to be a greater priority.
- Rockies: The Rockies have yet to address their outfield this offseason, and I think they’re a viable suitor for both players. Either one could be plugged in easily at an outfield corner or DH.
- Dodgers: Castellanos or Schwarber would likely have to split time between left field and DH if they were to sign with the Dodgers. It doesn’t seem like their type of signing, and the rotation is more pressing.
- Padres: Left field and DH both work here, and the Padres are known to be looking for a bat. The Padres are a viable suitor for either player, though they may need to clear payroll space. The club reportedly showed strong interest in Castellanos prior to the lockout.
- Giants: The Giants have Mike Yastrzemski and LaMonte Wade Jr. penciled in at the outfield corners, and I think Castellanos or Schwarber would be an easy roster fit. The Giants can afford to sign any player they want, so it’s really just a matter of whether they like the value of these players, wherever their contracts land. The Giants are not thought to be interested in $100MM contracts, though Castellanos won’t necessarily land there.
We’ll let the MLBTR readership weigh in. Where will each player end up?