Nick Castellanos opted out of his contract with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, forgoing the two years and $32 million total he would’ve received in 2022 and 2023 in order to become a free agent.
It’s not much of a gamble for Castellanos, whose contract on the free agent market this offseason should dwarf what he would’ve earned in 2022 and 2023 had he not opted out.
Since Castellanos opted out, the Reds will extend the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer to him, which will be rejected.
Once Castellanos goes through the formality of rejecting the QO, the Reds will be set up to receive draft pick compensation, and whichever team signs him will be required to give up a draft pick.
With Castellanos now on the open market and the Mets very likely in need of outfield help, should New York go after him?
PROS OF THE METS SIGNING CASTELLANOS
If it’s offensive punch the Mets are looking for, Castellanos has it.
The 29-year-old hit .309/.362/.576 with 34 homers and 38 doubles in 2021 in what was the best full season of his career.
And over the last four seasons, Castellanos has really come into his own, hitting .290/.345/.527 with 98 homers in 506 games with the Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Detroit Tigers.
A look at Castellanos’ advanced numbers reveals mostly good things offensively — he was among the best in the league this past season in xBA, xwOBA, and xSLG, and was well above average when it came to max exit velocity, hard hit rate, and barrel percentage.
Castellanos also doesn’t strike out a ton for a player who provides as much power as he does, but he does chase a ton — he was in the bottom five percent of the league in chase rate.
A small cause for concern with Castellanos’ offensive performance comes from looking at his home/road splits from 2021.
He absolutely raked at the hitter’s haven of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, slashing .359/.407/.702 with 23 homers in 69 games.
On the road, Castellanos hit just .260/.319/.454 with 11 homers.
Still, Castellanos’ overall offensive profile should work anywhere, and a look at his career home/road splits shows that he’s simply been a better hitter at home. One example of that is his 2017 season with the Detroit Tigers at the more cavernous Comerica Park.
We know Castellanos can mash, but is that enough?
CONS OF THE METS SIGNING CASTELLANOS
While Castellanos is a damn good hitter, there is a question to be asked about whether he should be playing the field at this point or if he should strictly be a DH.
Castellanos struggled so badly at third base earlier in his career that he was moved to the outfield, where he has been one of the least valuable defenders in the sport.
He was worth -7 DRS in 2021 while being in the bottom five percent in the league in OAA (Outs Above Average) and in the bottom seven percent of the league in Outfielder Jump.
Because of Castellanos being a defensive liability, he doesn’t have much versatility. If the Mets were to sign him, he would either be a well below average defender in right field or left field, or a DH.
But the Mets shouldn’t be spending this much money on a glorified DH when they have other DH options on the roster or close to contributing.
Complicating matters is the fact that if the Mets sign Castellanos they will be forced to give up their second overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, which happens to be No. 14.
The Mets’ second pick is only that high because it’s compensation for their failure to sign Kumar Rocker after drafting him in 2021.
Ordinarily, a team would be giving up a second-round draft pick to sign a player attached to a QO. But for the Mets this offseason, they would be giving up a pick that is much more valuable.
An easy case can be made that the Mets shouldn’t sign any players this offseason who are attached to the QO, but specifically signing Castellanos while giving up that pick would be hard to fathom.
If Castellanos wasn’t attached to the qualifying offer and if he was a better defender, this would be a much tougher call.
But Castellanos is attached to the QO and his defense means he’s best-suited as a DH.
That means the Mets should pass on Castellanos and instead sign and/or trade for other very good players who are more versatile and who aren’t attached to the QO. Players like Kris Bryant.
Source: Yahoo Sports