If you are just getting back from a vacation where you had no access at all to the internet or Cincinnati Reds news then you missed out on Monday’s news that the Reds signed free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos to a 4-year deal. The deal is for $64,000,000 over four years, but it also includes opt-outs following both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The outfielder also noted that he’s back to going by Nick instead of Nicholas, so adjust your brain to that one.
As things go here at Redleg Nation, we’ve all got our opinions on the roster moves that the Cincinnati Reds make. And today we’re here to share them, along with what some of the national media members have to say about the deal, too. We’re going to start out with what the Redleg Nation staff has to say, though.
Signing Nick Castellanos makes the Reds better, even if it’s just for a year. If Castellanos has a huge season, I do think there’s a good chance he opts out of his contract and goes after more money in free agency. But I’d be OK with that because if he has a huge season, the Reds will be winning more often than not. His 1.303 OPS in four games at GABP last August is a small sample size, but it’s hard not to get excited about what that could potentially translate to over a full season. His defense also isn’t as much of a concern for me as people are trying to make it. For comparison, last season Jesse Winker was actually worse than Castellanos in outs above average, the defensive stat Statcast recently introduced. It’s pretty much the same (Winker was at -8, while Castellanos was at -7). but it shows Castellanos isn’t any worse than other players the Reds may also play in the outfield in 2020.
I absolutely love this deal for the Reds. Castellanos is a legitimate bat. His lowest OPS+ is 112 over the last three years, so he profiles as someone who fits the category of “Get the Hitting”. He also is a mountain of a man in the clubhouse. Every single day is Opening Day to him and his will to win rivals Michael Lorenzen. If I could have a 26-man roster made up of 13 Castellanos’s and 13 Lorenzen’s, then tell me who beats that team? Ok, well, you could argue there are better players to clone, but I’m really excited.
His production fits well in pretty much any spot in the lineup. Think Brandon Phillips-style hitting. He can get on base when you need him to and he can drive in runs when you need him to. Probably will start the season as the No. 5 hitter, but should Joey Votto (god forbid) struggle out of the gate, then you have a bonafide replacement in that No. 2 spot. Pretty much any projection system has him at .800 to .900 OPS for the year. There’s a reason he was a top-10 free agent this year, and the fact that the Reds signed a top-10 guy is amazing.
The Reds have made a lot of nice additions this off-season, but the signing of Nick Castellanos transforms this team from good to potentially great. The biggest thing for me about this signing (and really all the off-season moves) is that it has instilled a new found sense of confidence I have in the Reds’ front office. I’ve always been a big believer in President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams, but the job he and General Manager Nick Krall have done this off-season has been remarkable. They’ve made the current team marginally better without sacrificing player assets or long term financial stability. Gone are the days of going “all in”. The front office has positioned the organization nicely to be players for years to come.
Nick Castellanos first caught my eye during the Cubs last visit to GABP in 2019. Castellanos looked fully engaged to the task at hand on a Chicago team which at times seemed less so as a unit in the four game series split. I recall thinking the Reds could use a guy or two like him moving forward to produce offense while providing some of the heart which seemed to leave the team with Yasiel Puig.
And now Castellanos is here with the Reds. I’m not going to worry about his defense unless he shows we need to. I’m also not going to worry that he has an opt out after each of the first two seasons of his contract with the Reds. Let’s cross that bridge if and when it comes, knowing Castellanos is already set to make enough that if he elects to opt out, it will mean he has done an outstanding job for the Reds. Even if just for one season, he almost certainly will have done his part to make Reds baseball fun to watch again.
While the consensus is that the signing of Nick Castellanos is a harbinger of a trade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the signing was born of the inability to improve the team via trade. The Reds need to find offense however and wherever they can. As if Reds fans needed a reminder of how fickle a season can turn, the Baseball Gods threw one high and tight with the news that Eugenio Suarez has undergone minor shoulder surgery and will get a late start to spring training. That could mean a return to second base for Senzel, sending Moustakas back to his natural position at third to begin the season. The point is, the guy on the bench that goes by the name Depth, should not be overlooked. There’s no need to start trading outfielders.
What Castellanos brings is the ability to barrel the ball. Over the last 3 seasons, he has a .287 batting average, a .337 OBP, slugging .505, with an OPS+ of 121 and 311 Total Bases per year. Over that 3 year span, he (along with Charlie Blackmon) led the majors in extra-base hits. Again, over the last three years his Total Bases ranked him tied for 4th with Mookie Betts among outfielders, his runs created ranked 9th, and his OPS+ ranked 22nd among outfielders. So, this is more than just a couple of months in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley. He’s also averaged 155 games played a season during that period. He plays every day; something we’ve not been able to say about Winker and Senzel so far.
In 2019 he had 53 Barrels, which tied him for 16th. Dude hits the ball on a rope. His Barrel Per Plate Appearance was 8.0%, which tied him with Shohei Ohtani and better than Juan Soto, for reference. His xWOBA ranked 36th, between Luke Voit and Yasmani Grandal. His chase rate (O-Swing) last year was the highest of his career, so he needs some Joey Votto to rub off on him to be sure.
His WAR has suffered because of his poor defense and below-average base-running, thus the diminished overall outlook. Castellanos is not a complete player, but he’s a pretty good hitter–and he’s 28.
What is the media saying?
It’s one thing to see what we here at Redleg Nation thought about the move. But it’s another thing to see what some of the national writers who are a bit further away from the team and the move thought about it.
Keith Law – The Athletic
Law, new to The Athletic after spending years writing for ESPN, was less than a fan of the move for the Reds. His article was littered with comments questioning many of the things he said, and I’ll let you be the judge of that. But here’s his takeaway:
If you could DH him — and that might be an option in the National League before too long — you would have a 3+ WAR player, easily. The Reds, however, didn’t need another corner outfielder; Castellanos is marginally better than their in-house options, but they had just signed Shogo Akiyama as a free agent, and already had Aristides Aquino floating around off a 1-WAR, 19-homer rookie season that probably wasn’t going to be repeated.
Craig Edwards – Fangraphs
Edwards took a deep dive into the Nick Castellanos signing at Fangaphs this week. He looks at the projections for the entirety of his contract, talks about why maybe you should, and maybe you shouldn’t expect his defense to be better than the projections suggest, and just how the deal could work out. Be sure to read the entire piece – there’s some interesting stuff in there. But here’s what he wrapped things up with:
The Reds are right in the middle of a four-team fight for the NL Central, but one more big move would make them favorites instead of solid contenders. The Reds just got a little bit better, and they certainly improved their floor with all the depth they have in the outfield, but it’s hard not to think they might have another, more significant trick up their sleeves.
David Schoenfield – ESPN
Schoenfield talked more about the Reds and the National League Central in his piece earlier this week where he suggests that Cincinnati might be the team to beat in the division. Here’s what he had to say about the Castellanos pick up:
The NL Central is wide open. The projections do point to the issue here: Exactly how good is this offense? The Reds finished 12th in the NL in runs last year. Heck, the Pirates were 11th and scored 57 more runs. Moustakas is more of a big name than a big star, as he hits home runs but has just a .319 OBP over the past three seasons. Castellanos bashed doubles all over the field in 2019 — 58 of them — but he’s also not a high OBP guy with a .337 mark last year and .337 over the past three years. To be fair, those two are clear offensive upgrades over what the Reds had last year at second base and in the outfield corners (for most of the season), so the lineup looks better.
Keith Law must hate the Reds.
If they sign Babe Ruth and Mike Trout, he would say it is dumb move.
I like the move. The Reds are definitely in the race this year.
How about a 30 year repeat.
I’m pumped about signing Castellanos. Since the offseason began, my hope was for the Reds to walk the walk of the talk they had saying. The talk was to improve the offense and raise payroll. At this point they have done both and I have to commend them for doing it in a way that kept our best prospects in house and did not handcuff future teams financially. The Moose contract may have been a bit of an overpay (although I’m not too concerned about it), but if that’s what it took to get the ball rolling and have other FA’s see Cincinnati as a destination that’s set to contend, then it was worth every penny.
In an ideal world, they would have upgraded at least one of the C or SS positions, as those seemed the most obvious candidates for upgrade. But, that’s easier said than done, and is largely dictated by the market. Maybe, as Edwards said in the above quote, there’s more up their sleeve. That would be awesome. (Like maybe Brock Holt?)
It’s interesting to think about all these signings and yet there is no point to any of it if our old man at 1B doesn’t crank it up.
He’s as cerebral as they come – I have no doubt that he knows this too.
For the first time in 4-5 years, the pressure is on Votto to be Votto. Does he have 700-1400 truly great plate appearances left in him?
Let’s find out!
Just above average for a first baseman would be adequate. Anything close to Joey Votto numbers and this team wins 95 games.
I have to disagree, i think this season, moreso than maybe any previous season relieves the pressure of Votto having to be “the guy”. He is now surrounded by what we hope is a high OBP guy in Shogo, a hopefully progressing Senzel and the known power quantities of Moose, Suarez, and Castellanos. Will Votto still put enormous pressure on himself this season, of course he will he is that type of guy, but this team is far better equipped to win with the recent production of Votto, that being a guy that can still get on base but doesn’t have the power he once possessed.
If Bell sits Votto against tough LH pitchers his results may be a lot better and he gets rested.
I think adding Brock Holt for a tad more money makes a monstrous amount of sense.
They have the rotation to win the division. I believe they have enough bullpen options to compete. They may need to add to the bullpen before the trade deadline if this team is stacking up to he great. They have the offense to win the division. And, I think the data from Outs Above Average suggests to us is that good enough defense isn’t much different than great defense if a team can hit and pitch. This team should be able to hit and pitch quite well.
Adding Holt would be adding a super-sub address to the issue that Saurez exposed – how will the team keep rolling if there are injuries (and there will be injuries)?
One of my favorite things about how this team is constructed is the agility to platoon against right and left handed pitching. Some of the platoons options, such as Winker & Ervin, have the potential be very good. Winker and Ervin could be a .800-.900+ OPS platoon if their historical numbers hold up. Senzel and Akiyama also works quite well and Akiyama will, hopefully, make a great outfield super-sub and play most days. I also think it’s not the end of the world to have Aquino spent significant time in AAA getting hot. If he gets really hot, plug him right in and let him go on a HR run binge. Winker still has an option or, more than likely, he will need some IL time and that will make room.
I also think it’s very likely Votto ends up in some sort of platooning situation. His second half swing was much better but he still struggled against LHP. It might make sense for Castellanos or Moose to slide over to 1B against LHP and have Senzel move into a corner OF or 2B position.
I really hope the Reds add Holt. He’s a solid back up for Galvis who can hit and also who plays nearly every position. Farmer is also a super-sub who can play anywhere. With Van Meter, Blandino, and Aquino in AAA, there are options if someone goes down or Farmer’s bat becomes a liability.
Great job on roster construction, Dick Williams & Co. Now get Holt and lets head to Arizona.
Something else on Votto. He’s getting paid $25m this year. Votto has already earned the value of his contract and he’s not only my favorite Red of all time, he’s also the greatest batter in Reds history – and there’s stiff competition for that accolade.
That said, historically I think we’d all say that if someone is paid $25m, they should play everyday and earn every penny. At 36, I think there’s another way for Votto to earn every penny. If he continues to struggle against LHP, I hope he has the courage to allow Moose or Castellanos to man 1B. I know that’s easy for me to say and expect. I also imagine it’s very difficult for someone like Votto, who’s working his tail off to play his best for the team, to accept. Votto has a chance to not only be one of the greatest batters in history, he has a real chance to be a world champion. It might require him to do the one thing he most loathes – not play everyday.
That’ll take some courage by Votto, Dick Williams, and David Bell. Fingers crossed.
With me, whenever moves are done, they are suppose to answer questions, right? I mean, you sign a FA because you have a need somewhere, right? You make a trade because you have expendable pieces at one position and a need at another position, right?
Well, the Reds had a question at the end of last season, needing offense. Does Nick answer that? Of course.
However, from the end of the season to now, another question arised, the glut of OF’s we have. Without Nick, we had 9 OF’s with major league experience, I believe. We would carry at least 4, probably 5. So, now, we have to decide what to do with at least 5 OF’s, not to mention which OF’s?
I doubt the Reds would have brought in Shogo and Nick for trades to the minors. So, I doubt they would go anywhere. So, what do we do with 8 OF’s? Can you justifiably send who you can to the minors? I mean, if you just do that, the the Reds could get a rep of doing this to players. Then, FA’s may be hesitant to sign with the Reds in the future.
So, in summary, how one feels about the signing of Nick, I believe it’s all a matter of perspective. If you only look at the need for offense, it was a good signing.
If you look at we made one “good problem”, the glut of OF’s, even worse, then solely the signing of Nick wasn’t needed and, thus, at best not the smartest signing. I specify it that way because if other moves are done to alleviate the OF glut, then overall, it could be a good move overall.
I fall towards the last more. Does it help our offense? Sure. But, without more moves, it just wasn’t the smartest move to make.
I understand your concerns. And in a lot of ways the way the roster is structured is a bit odd. We have too many OF and 3B guys and not really anyone other than Galvis that can play regularly at SS. All the FA signings should add offense, but all come with some questions as to how they will fit.
With that said, I think the way the Reds handle the OF situation is pretty straight forward if things stay the way they are today. Castellanos, Senzel, Akiyama, Winker, and Ervin make the team. Schebler and Jankowski are DFA’d (maybe to add minor league relievers to the team) and if they pass through waivers, then great, that’s more depth. Payton is sent back to the A’s or a minor trade is worked out to keep him. VanMeter is more of an infielder anyway, and he and Aquino are sent to AAA to be ready when called upon.
Castellanos, Senzel, Winker, and Akiyama form what’s basically a 4-man OF rotation. There’s approximately 27 games a month (162 games in about 6 months) leaving approximately 81 starts in the OF per month. That’s 20 starts for all 4 guys. Additionally, there could be times when Senzel could relieve Moose at 2B against tough LHP, Castellanos could do the same for Votto at 1B, allowing Ervin to get some starts in the OF against lefties, and then there’s the DH games. There’s certainly a path for everyone to get a good amount of ABs and injury insurance by carrying this much depth.
I do wonder about your “starting ideology”. I can understand the 20 starts per idea. But, then, if those OF’s are starting at all the other positions on those days off, it sort of defeats the idea of giving them some rests in the first place.
I don’t think it would be that often, and probably not at the same time. Let’s say for example, Senzel relieves Moustakas 3x a month, meaning Senzel is on the bench 4 games/month, or, about once a week. Same for Castellanos. Or maybe Farmer gets some of those starts at 1B or 2B and the OF guys get a little more rest. The approximation of 27 games per month still allows for another 3-4 off days for the team.
Hypothetical Break down:
Castellanos 21 starts (18 OF, 3 1B)
Senzel 20 starts (20 OF, 3 2B)
Akiyama 20 starts (All OF)
Winker 20 starts (All OF)
Ervin 3 starts (All OF + some OF on DH days)
Moose 23 starts (2B)
Suarez 24 starts (3B)
Votto 23 starts (1B)
Farmer 5 starts (1 -1B, 1-2B, 3-3B)
That gives everyone a minimum of 6 days off a month. And the 7 “starting” level players at 6 positions all start at least 20 games. Bench players Ervin and Farmer start about once a week to keep them ready.
I don’t know. Maybe they go with more established starters (sending an OF to the bench regularly) or a straight platoon of Ervin/Winker.
Please expand on the idea of why a glut of talent is a negative. Every move the front office has made this offseason has improved the talent level of the roster (at least on paper). If there was a way that you could have a starting-caliber player as every position player on your roster, why would you not do that? (This is not to say that every position player on the current roster is starting-quality.)
Is it a concern about each player’s attitude about not starting every day? Would you rather not have someone like Aristides Aquino available off the bench than say Cliff Pennington?
I am trying to understand the objection of some that adding impact bats, regardless of position, without surrendering player assets via trade, has a negative side.
With a number of players without options, I could see losing younger, cost-controlled talent to waivers as a negative. You could lose Winker and Ervin, then have Castellanos opt out after year one and the dung pile gets deep.
Also, interchangeability of positions is not a universal given. You can’t just put the eight best position players on the field. Eight Joey Vottos in his prime would have been a heck of an offense, as long as no ball got hit to 90% of the playing field since eight first basemen wouldn’t work too well.
Quite simple. Who plays?
I doubt they are bringing in Shogo as a sub.
Castellanos isn’t going to platoon. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays in the OF for RHP and 1B for LHP (or maybe Moose moves over to 1B and Senzel plays 2B). (This is assuming Votto will still struggle against LHP – if he doesn’t, all the better).
I think Shogu will play nearly every day against RHP and a lot with LHP. But I also think he’ll play all three OF positions.
Frankly, I think the line ups look like this:
I want to give Keith law a wedgie
Haha me too
give him an atomic wedgie for me – the type where the underwear goes all the way over the head. I can’t believe the Athletic is paying him. Between Jim Bowden and Keith Law their baseball writing is becoming very suspect.
Not to mention a certain local Cincinnati sports radio guy who also gets paid to write for them. The Athletic should take care they don’t morph into an athletic supporter.
I think we are all ready to hear more cracks of bats and less clicks of a keyboard.
Schoenfeld knocks Moustakas for being a low-OBP guy. Moose’s OBP last year was .329. The object of much of RLN’s dreams, Francisco Lindor, had an OBP last year of .335. (There is no question that Lindor is a more valuable baserunner than Moustakas.) That means for every 165 or so PAs, Lindor got on base 1 more time.
Castellanos had a bit better OPS+ last year than Lindor, so if you like the offense that Lindor would be expected to bring, then you also have to like the offense that Castellanos figures to produce. Lindor produces his number at shortstop, and would be a bigger improvement over Galvis than Castellanos would be over Winker/Ervin/Aquino.
There is a myth out there that championship teams need a horse at every position. The Nats last year had Victor Robles post a 88 OPS+ from centerfield, and got little out of first base, with Matt Adams the most-used player. (Howie Kendrick did give them an excellent 156 ABs at 1B.) The 2018 Red Sox got a 92 OPS+ from Jackie Bradley, Jr. in CF, and less than average production from the Eduardo Nunez/Brock Holt combo at 2B. Dave Concepcion’s career OPS+ was 88; Cesar Geronimo’s was 93. If Galvis plays his regular solid defense, and posts offensive numbers like he did last year in Philly, the Reds can live with him at short.
One thing that the last two champs did have was some positional flexibility, which Senzel should be able to supply the Reds.
Great post! We all want this great line-up with no holes. But that ain’t reality – whether due to injuries, aging, or they’re just not available. We have a much improved lineup to go with a solid pitching staff.
I think Senzel does play second and Moose moves to 3B to begin the season. That would make the OF Akiyama, Castellanos, Winker, Ervin & Aquino. That’s assuming the roster is still constructed the same way as it is today.
I’d disagree slightly, in that I think the best tonic for Senzel is stability, at least until he recovers from the shoulder issue and/or he gets comfortable hitting (again) after looking like he was coached all the way back to AAA last summer.
So, for me, put him in CF and leave him there until he’s back to his typical production. The occasional substitution at 2B can be handled very adequately by Farmer, Blandino, VanMeter or whoever. In fact, it’s better for the team if we use our bench regularly. Having spent 30 plus years in New England, signing Holt would be fabulous. Everyone, fans, players, media, coaching staff would love this guy. He’d be a huge addition to the bench.
My only real question about the Castellanos opt outs is what would prevent the Reds from signing him again, if this marriage indeed becomes one made in heaven?
The acquisition of Nick Castellanos is a positive for me. He’s younger but he reminds me of Kevin Mitchell and his couple years with the Reds in the mid-90’s. Mitchell could hit but his defense was not too smooth.
Didn’t even need a glove out there, if I recall. And very successful whiffle ball bat.
The National Media will not believe until the Reds force them to in the win column. I’m stoked!! This is a very good team!
Positional flexibility is huge and it is something the FO has accomplished.
I have a few possible concerns but am very excited about the construction of this roster.
1. Will Bauer be the pitcher he was in Cleveland or what we saw the 2nd half in Cincy. Time will tell and if he isn’t, there are other options in Mahle, Sims or possibly Lodolo, but he is probably a year away.
2. I’d love to see another lock down reliever added near the trade deadline and I believe we have the depth to obtain it.
3. Will Votto return to his greatness, I doubt it, and if he doesn’t, will he be willing to platoon vs LHs for a shot at the title, … I think so.
Galvis will be fine. I’d rather have him at SS and us having not given away the farm to get a 2 yr player. Sparky told Davey he didn’t care if he hit his weight as long as he played gold glove D at short. Galvis can pick it & that will be huge with the lack of superior D with this club.
The FO has done well. Let’s kick back and enjoy winning baseball again!!!
What this signing does is give the Reds a chance to start strong. The Reds won’t have to wait for somebody to catch fire. They’ll already have somebody who is swinging a hot enough bat to make a reasonable guess who to keep on the roster at spring. On the off chance that even guys like Schebler and Payton are going 4/5 late into the spring, and guys like Jankowski look like they are hitting pitches solidly that they used to miss, there will be some major league team who will give up something of value for a player like that should somebody be injured on their rosters. Even if all you get back are players with options and some potential, then the Reds still come out OK. If all you get out of the spring are three good hitting outfielders, then you’re definitely happy you picked up Castellanos for nothing other than the chance to start strong. In this division, the early games will matter.
I think the general idea of the outfield rotation will be something akin to:
Day 1: Winker LF, Senzel CF, Castellanos RF (Shogo and Ervin PH and double switch to LF and RF)
Day 2: Shogo LF, Senzel CF, Castellanos RF
Day 3: Winker LF, Shogo CF, Castellanos RF
Day 4: Winker LF, Senzel CF, Shogo RF
Obviously it won’t happen like this exactly but I think something like this will be the general idea.
Then, something else with Nick’s signing, even if the Reds could pull moves sending people down to the minors and DFA’ing guys, is that what they really wanted to do with them in the first place? I mean, I doubt seriously that teams go around planning on carrying 10 OF’s on their major league roster. Maybe should’ve brought Nick in earlier, before we picked up a couple of these guys?
I have never been a big fan of Law but he does make some sense or it least to me he does.We don’t know what Wink,Senzel and Acquino can actually do because well we don’t.Wink has shown flashes of an on base machine with some pop but can’t stay healthy in his two years.Senzel has been hurt as well and his he the guy that tore it up early or the guy that stunk it up later in the year.Same with Acquino.Reds don’t know either and with Nick and Shogo being signed and money always plays they won’t find out.The Reds went for it with these signings and I like it.Injuries will happen and maybe we will see some of Wink,Ervin and Acquino but don’t count on it.Barring injury Shogo,Senzel and Nick start and play a bunch
Curt – some valid thoughts… but,
1. there appears to be a window of opportunity in the NL Central, 2. we have solid SP, 3. there was a limited FA pool to go after, 4. the fan-base is weary of the phrase re-build (or non-competitive). So, what does the FO do?
The Reds are fielding more proven ML talent in the starting lineup than any time in the previous 5 years. There is some depth as we further groom JVM, AA, etc. at Louisville. And there is improved positional flexibility. I don’t think playing Nick Senzel at 2b makes him Ben Zobrist – maybe Kris Bryant!
The David Bell question is legitimate. I really wished the FO would have made the manager change prior to 2018. Now, that’s just a wasted season – Price, Riggleman, and a cast of low-price AAA players. If Bell and crew had a year head-start, I’d feel much better.
Finally, to build a consistent winner, the Reds must start getting production out of their farm system. But that’s a 10 year project to become as productive as LA, Atlanta, Minn. Otherwise it requires a lot of losing to get high draft picks. The only way we can know how the farm system compares are the reports we get from Doug & team.
My fearbis what if Castellanos gets hurt and the Reds are stuck with him, like Ryan Ludwick… the 2 opt outs are overly generous, IMO.
If Bell sits Votto against tough LH pitchers his results may be a lot better and he gets rested.
That is alway the case. Just think of the Dodgers with 65 million tied up on Price and Betts.
That is alway the case. Just think of the Dodgers with 65 million tied up on Price and Betts.