Posted on January 27, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s been a busy offseason for the Cincinnati Reds, and it isn’t over yet. Monday morning, the Reds agreed to terms with free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The deal is for four years and $64 million and gives Castellanos the option to opt-out after both the 2020 season and the 2021 season. Castellanos was arguably the best outfielder on the open market this winter, making this signing a huge addition for a rebuilding Cincinnati team.
The nearly 28-year-old Castellanos has flown under the radar while spending most of his career with the Tigers. He’s quietly become one of the most consistent outfielders in baseball, even if he’s not a bonafide superstar. He’s put together four straight seasons with an OPS over .800 and has averaged just over 25 home runs over the past three seasons. Castellanos helped to anchor a struggling Tigers team for many years before getting traded to the Cubs at the trade deadline last year. His production exploded after the trade, hitting .321 with an OPS of 1.002 in his 51 games with the Cubs.
He will immediately fit into the middle of a Cincinnati lineup that looks loaded heading into the 2020 season, at least on paper. Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez return to anchor the lineup. But they will be joined by both Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, who signed an identical four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds earlier this winter. Those four players should give be able to give opposing pitchers big headaches, especially since the Reds will be able to alternate between the two righties and two lefties.
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Of course, it remains to be seen how the Reds will divide playing time among a slew of options in their outfield. Castellanos has spent most of his career at third base. But that spot is occupied by Suarez. He’s grown accustomed to playing right field over the past two seasons and his future in the big leagues appears to be in the outfield.
However, the Reds now have a logjam in their outfield. Castellanos will presumably be an everyday player for Cincinnati. The Reds also signed Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama earlier this offseason. He too should be in line for significant playing time. That leaves limited at-bats left for the likes of Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, and Scott Schebler. All have proven that they can be productive big league hitters, but there certainly isn’t room for all of them in the Cincinnati outfield.
At this point, it seems likely that the Reds will trade at least one of their excess outfielders, possibly more than one. Senzel, in particular, has been rumored to be a potential trade chip this offseason. The likes of Erin, Winker, and Aquino could also have value on the trade market. However, the Reds are running out of time with the start of spring training a few weeks ago.
Regardless of their next movie, the Reds are undoubtedly better with the addition of Castellanos. They’ve added a proven major league hitter and one of the youngest free agents on the market. Along with Moustakas, the Reds have added two prominent bets to an already potent lineup. With a promising rotation and significant upgrades to their offense over the winter, the Reds are one of the most intriguing teams in baseball heading into the 2020 season.