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Coming off a career year Nick Castellanos is going to get paid

Reds’ slugger Nick Castellanos’ opt-out came at exactly the right time.

Syndication: The Enquirer Meg Vogel / USA TODAY NETWORK

If Nick Castellanos’ contract with the Reds expired at the end of 2020 this article would be a lot different. Castellanos played in only 60 games in the COVID-shortened season and had little impact in that time, posting a meager 0.4 fWAR. He hit for league-average, with a 100 wRC+, and had a sub-.300 OBP. For whatever reason, Castellanos’ 2020 strikeout rate was an outlier 28.5 percent, the highest of his career by quite a bit.

Time has been on his side however, as a strong 2021 positions him as a top-15 free agent following an opt-out of a $34 million deal through 2023. Castellanos smartly decided to forego that guarantee to test the free agency market, a smart decision that is likely to pay him much more over the next two seasons (and beyond). Castellanos is a slugger whose defense has suffered as he’s aged, but he remains a worthy add for many teams in need of a corner outfielder or a solid power hitter.

Last season Castellanos set personal bests in multiple high-impact categories including all three slash categories (.309/.362/.576), home runs (34), wRC+ (140), and surprisingly, strikeout percentage (20.7 percent versus 28.5 percent from 2020). He also reached career-high fWAR with 4.2, which would have been higher if not for his lousy defense.

The Reds finished with an 83-79 record last year. They missed the playoffs largely due to an unexpected Cardinals run that included a franchise record-setting 17 game winning streak. Cincinnati however has not been linked to resigning Castellanos thus far.

This week John Morosi reported that the Giants and Marlins (of all teams) are kicking the tires on the slugger. San Francisco has two veteran corner outfielders slotted into their depth chart, with 31-year-old Mike Yastrzemski and 35-year-old Darin Ruf manning the corners at Oracle Park, the addition of a DH could be intriguing.

The 67-win Marlins basically need upgrades basically everywhere if they are going to ascend back to any semblance of competitiveness. Castellanos is a hometown kid, who went to high school an hour outside of Miami. The Marlins got good production out of right field last year thanks largely to Adam Duvall, whom they sent packing at the trade deadline to Atlanta. Considering the Marlins have not spent much money since Derek Jeter took over in 2017, this seems unlikely. Additionally, when was the last time any player took a discount to play an hour from where he went to high school?

The White Sox handily won the American League Central last season despite right field being a black hole for them throughout the year. Adam Eaton started the season expected to be the everyday right fielder, but he earned his release after 58 games and an 80 wRC+. The less-than-inspiring cadre of Gavin Sheets, Luis Gonzalez, Brian Goodwin, and Romy Gonzalez all logged innings in right. Chicago is going to see minimal salary relief this offseason, but a slugger like Castellanos would be a great addition to a lineup that was exposed in the LDS against Houston.

Mediocre-to-bad defense aside, Castellanos has consistently shown to be a legitimate mid-lineup power threat. Throwing him in a corner outfield spot would make all the sense in the world considering his offensive production, the expansion of the designated hitter makes him that much more interesting for NL teams. He opted out of a guaranteed two-year $34 million deal and he’ll likely double both the years and the total dollars in his next contract. ‘The Crowd’ over at FanGraphs estimates a four-year deal at $80.6 million, which would be quite the upgrade.

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Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano