Even With His Contract Opt-Outs and Universal DH, You Probably Shouldn't Get Any Nick Castellanos Hopes Up

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Even With His Contract Opt-Outs and Universal DH, You Probably Shouldn’t Get Any Nick Castellanos Hopes Up

Chicago Cubs

In the Bullets this morning, Brett shared a couple videos of Nick Castellanos going yard off Trevor Bauer during practice while flipping his bat in summer league excitement … and it depressed the hell out of me. Nick was supposed to be our guy. He finally got out of Detroit and found the right place. He was always supposed to be a Cub. And for a half-season, he was.

Think back to last August and September (you know, about 10 years ago?), when every Cubs fan in the country rallied around this defensively mediocre corner outfielder, because the energy and offensive production he brought with him to the park and plate everyday was absolutely magnetic. He drew us in, he slammed his bat, he said Every Day Is Opening Day, and we ate it up. But our cries of EXTENNNNND HIMMMMMM went unheeded, and when it was time for him to test free agency – at just 28 years old – the Cubs were nowhere to be found.

While I understand fully the reasons the Cubs didn’t go out and sign him this offseason, I also suspect they would have tried and succeeded if they’d found a way to execute one of the many trades we knew they were pursuing at the time.

Obviously, those efforts didn’t pan out, and Castellanos signed later in the offseason on a four-year deal with the Reds, generally considered a good contract for both sides at the time, but fairly cheap:

2020 – $16M, opt-out
2021 – $14M, opt-out
2022 – $16M
2023 – $16M
2024 – $20M mutual option, $2M buyout

Good deal for the Reds. 

Because of the opt-outs coming so quickly in the deal, a lot of Cubs fans were hoping that, maybe after a year in Cincinnati and after the Cubs do some financial maneuvering, Castellanos would just opt out and then come back to the Cubs. Indeed, I still see a lot of Cubs fans out there holding out hope for a reunion – especially now that the DH is likely going to remain universal – even as we wade through this pandemic.

Unfortunately, now, I’m not so sure it’s realistic to keep hoping.

If Castellanos manages to have a really great 60-game season here in 2020, opting out would necessarily mean he expects to land a deal better than the guaranteed three-years and $48 million remaining on his contract with the Reds after 2020. At age 29, with the right numbers and the universal DH, that is of course possible. At least in a normal environment.

But remember, he’ll have banked only about $5.9M of the $16M he expected to make this year *and* he’d be gambling during an extremely atypical offseason, where money could be more difficult to find. Opting out after 2020 is looking MUCH riskier now than it did several months ago.

Even if Castellanos DID opt-out after 2020, there’s no reason to presume the Cubs would be willing or able to sign him, given that they are likely to tighten the strings even more aggressively this offseason thanks to the lost revenue in 2020 (and perhaps ugly projections for 2021). Throw in the Competitive Balance Tax considerations (there’s just no way the Cubs go over it next year), and it’s harder than ever to see the Cubs going all out on a contract for Castellanos (again, which would have to beat three years and $48 million (unless he made a terrible opt-out decision)).

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

No, no. Even if he absolutely goes OFF in these 60 games (which, hey … we’ve seen it before), Castellanos will almost certainly be better off hanging on in Cincinnati at least another year. And unless something dramatic changes with respect to financial expectations in Chicago, there’s no shot at a reunion this winter.

But what about 2021?

By then, maybe revenues have stabilized. Maybe the Cubs have reset their CBT payroll. Maybe then it’s possible? Eh. Not so fast.

As far as I can tell, opting out after 2021 might also be a risky endeavor for Castellanos, even if the financial health of the league has largely rebounded by then. With the CBA negotiations set to take place that winter and so much FUD surrounding those talks, landing a better deal than what he’s already got locked down with the Reds (two years and $34M guaranteed) may once again prove difficult, especially at two years older than he is today. The presence of the DH in the National League will continue to help, but he’ll have to keep hitting out of his mind for that to matter much.

And that’s about the size of it. I think this ship has probably sailed. And I think we’ve all been effectively cursed to watch Castellanos do his thing in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. Fun times.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami