MLB Rumors: Nick Castellanos and the Cincinnati Reds have agreed to a deal, per Jon Heyman on Twitter. No word yet on the terms, though Jeff Passan says it is a multi-year deal.
This is disappointing news for Texas Rangers fans, and a big blow to the Rangers’ efforts to land the final piece or two necessary to solidify the team’s lineup for 2020. Castellanos is the last impact free agent standing who would be a fit for the Rangers, and with Texas needing a righthanded middle of the order bat who can play first base, Castellanos, who was willing to move to first base, per reports, having played third base and the outfield previously, seemed like an ideal fit, particularly with no other obvious fits for Castellanos being out there.
Instead, the Reds add Castellanos to their outfield mix, and the Rangers are faced with a situation where there are no viable first base options on the free agent market that represent a real upgrade over Ronald Guzman, and not a lot out there in the trade market. Texas also lacks a true center fielder on the potential Opening Day roster, though Jon Daniels is putting a brave face on about being willing to use Danny Santana out there. The best available options appear to be either Jackie Bradley Jr. via trade or Kevin Pillar as a free agent signing, and both are guys who would appear to be average at best, or possibly Starling Marte, if the Pirates are willing to pull the trigger on a deal and if the Rangers feel he can handle center field.
The Rangers have other options they can pursue, such as re-visiting Trey Mancini trade talks with the Baltimore Orioles, or seeing if the Atlanta Braves are willing to part with Ender Inciarte, given that they have added Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis in free agency and have Drew Waters and Cristian Pache knocking at the door. Texas could also see if the San Francisco Giants are looking to subsidize some of Brandon Belt’s deal to free up first base for Buster Posey, or see if one of the myriad of extra Reds corner guys are available for cheap. I mentioned Jesse Winker yesterday, a poor defensive outfielder with a power bat who could possibly be looked at at first base. There’s also Phil Ervin and Aristides Aquino, righthanded bats who have high flameout risk but could be part-time or platoon options.
But make no mistake, missing out on Castellanos at this point is a problem. Texas publicly committed to improving for 2020 and looking to make significant moves to get this team to where it can be a contender. The Rangers have solidified the rotation and picked up Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos, but still have glaring holes at first base and center field while looking like a team that would be expected to log a win total in the mid- to high-70s.
Texas is at a point where they seem to be pot committed — with a new stadium, and with the additions they’ve made, they aren’t rebuilding in 2020. They may not be favorites, but they have worked towards building a team that is expected to be respectable, and has a chance to contend if things go right. If they stand pat and hope that Ronald Guzman’s bat clicks, or that Nick Solak can survive defensively at third base, or that Danny Santana can play a competent center field while hitting like he did last year, well...that might work.
But that’s not a strategy, and not where the Rangers wanted to be for 2020, I don’t think. Texas needs a first baseman or a center fielder, ideally both. And its incumbent on Jon Daniels to make that happen before Opening Day. If not, it would be hard to call this offseason, even with the moves they’ve made, a success.
UPDATE — Heyman says the Castellanos deal is believed to be 4 years at $16 million per year, with opt outs. Castellanos is a Scott Boras client, so Heyman should be in a position to know.
UPDATE II — Castellanos reportedly has opt-outs after 2020 and 2021. I suspect that that, rather than the total dollars, probably was the difference between him signing with the Reds and him signing with the Rangers.
UPDATE III — The deal is official. $16 million in 2020, opt out after 2020, $14 million in 2021, opt out after 2021, $16 million in 2022 and 2023, and a $20 million player option in 2024 with a $2 million buyout.