Nicholas Castellanos is a player the Royals are familiar with from his time in Detroit. And he is a free agent we should pursue this offseason.
The Kansas City Royals need a corner outfielder that can hit. Bringing back Alex Gordon, a left fielder that has not hit for an OPS+ over league average since 2015 only accentuates the issue. There are only a few corner outfielders in this mold worth pursuing this offseason. Nicholas Castellanos is one of those.
Nicholas Castellanos is far from a perfect player. The Royals watched him play for our AL Central foe in Detroit for years. He struggled to hit consistently as a young player and once his bat came around, he never really figured out how to play third base well. Then, in 2018 the Tigers moved him to the outfield. Since that point, he has been a very good hitter.
Castellanos has 76 home runs over the last three years. Our current left fielder has not hit that many homers combined over the last 5 seasons. Castellanos has not had an OPS+ below 120 since moving to the outfield in 2018. And he has not had an OPS+ below average since 2015. His bat will play.
He may be a streaky hitter, he was only having a decent season last year before being traded to the Cubs where he then caught on fire. But that is the norm for most hitters in baseball. And the fact that he has not had an OPS lower than .811 over the last four seasons would suggest that you can be sure of what you are getting as he enters his prime. 2020 will only be his age 28 season.
We should be upfront about the fact that Castellanos is a bad defender, something the Royals seem to focus on. He is more than capable of making impressive plays from time to time but tends to turn some routine plays into exciting adventures. And that tendency has been a part of his game throughout his entire career, whether he is playing at third base or in the outfield.
Part of what should make Castellanos appealing to the Royals, though, is that his contract should not be out of hand. He is not a star. He is predominantly a fastball hitter that has figured out what he is and continues to get better at hitting those fastballs. We have young outfielders that can play defense and not hit. At some point, we are going to need some outfielders that can actually hit the ball.
Due to being traded midseason, there is no qualifying offer the Royals need to consider when trying to sign Castellanos. His greatest value on paper would be as a designated hitter, but we have a better DH already. I also think, based on how few offers the Tigers received for him during the season last year, that other teams will also be considering him a bad defensive outfielder more than a DH. If his contract winds up where I think it will, $14 or $15 million per year for 2 or 3 years, we should be willing to go that high for him.
He is a hitter in his prime who will slug over .500 and hit over .275. He has the specific talents that we lack in our current lineup. We cannot continue to send out a lineup every day where the entire bottom half hits for an OPS below .600. Looking around the Royals’ current system, I do not see the up-and-coming outfielder that is going to hit like Castellanos will over the next two to three years. So, we should fix that by signing one.