I’m not sure there was a player who more endeared himself to Cubs fans in as short of a time as Nick Castellanos’s two months with the club in the second half of 2019. It wasn’t just that he hit like a dang MVP over that stretch, it was that he had the soul of a poet. The guy is a baseball rat, is well-liked, and treats every day like Opening Day.
But, when it was time for Castellanos to hit free agency, for all the obvious lineup fit, the Cubs weren’t super enamored with having Castellanos in the outfield on the regular, and also – clearly – weren’t inclined to commit $50+ million at the time. Castellanos wound up signing a deal with the Reds featuring a bunch of opt-outs, but now that the pandemic hit, you might as well think of it as a full-guaranteed deal, because the likelihood of an opt-out is quite low even after this coming year.
So, then, the 28-year-old Castellanos effectively has three years left on his deal, and is guaranteed at least $48 million over that time. With the Reds in deep cost-cutting mode, of course they’d be open to moving him (and anyone else):
Reds are open to listening on Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos but there doesn’t seem to much traction there. Eugenio Suarez has drawn more interest; if they do move Suarez, Moustakas could move to his natural 3B.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 11, 2021
Thanks to the opening paragraph up there, of COURSE I’m doing the stupid thing that all fans do: how can the Cubs get him? That would be awesome. And fun. And probably good for the lineup. And a rare positive thing this offseason! Let’s go. LET’S GO. LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
OK. Stop, Bert. Stop. There’s no chance. It won’t happen. So I’ll just stop myself now.
In order for the Cubs – realistically – to add Castellanos right now, the Reds would have to eat a ton of that contract, which they aren’t going to do, especially in a trade to the in-division Cubs. For their part, the Cubs would have to want to add Castellanos’s bat so badly that they’ll either live with him in left field or bet on the DH returning, plus give up a decent enough return to get the Reds to eat all that necessary salary. Also, there is that opt-out after 2021, so if things somehow went beautifully for both Castellanos and the overall market, well, it’s POSSIBLE he could leave after just one year. I really don’t see how the Reds could put a trade together for him at all right now, much less with the Cubs, specifically.
Also, for as much as Castellanos does bring a quality bat, and even though he’ll play next season at only 29, he’s NOT going to be the guy he was for those two months with the Cubs. That was a dang 160 wRC+ type guy. With the Reds, albeit in the short weird season, he reverted considerably and also saw a strange uptick in his strikeout rate (maybe started let himself skew a little too power-hungry):
Would you still gladly take Castellanos, given the style of bat (usually higher-contact, but still good power) and the impact in the clubhouse? Of course, especially if you think the DH is likely to be available. But is that a guy you’re bending over backwards to make an intradivisional trade happen at an extremely complicated financial time? Alas, it just won’t happen.