3 monster right field solutions for the 2022 KC Royals

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KC Royals, Nick Castellanos
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It’s a long shot, but wouldn’t Nick Castellanos in a KC uniform be good?

The Royals know Nick Castellanos well. Originally a Detroit Tiger before moving on to the Cubs and then the Reds, Castellanos annoyed Kansas City pitchers for seven years. He was a Tiger force to be reckoned with, always just one swing away from punishing the Royals.

Now, two seasons since he last played for an American League club, Castellanos is one of the most coveted free agents on this winter’s market. And with good reason—he’s coming off a .309/.362/.576 season in which he established full-season career highs in average, OBP, WAR (3.2), and home runs (34), and missed matching his best RBI total (101) by just one. He made an All-Star team for the first time and won his first Silver Slugger. (Although his 20.7 K% wasn’t optimal, it’s still the best of his nine seasons).

His stellar 2021 was predictable, however. Despite batting just .225 in the short 2020 campaign, he still slammed 14 home runs, which extrapolates to almost 38 for a full season, and drove in 34 runs, which extrapolates to nearly 92. Castellanos averages almost 19 homers a year and failed to reach double-digits only in 2013, when he debuted and played 11 games. He’s a career .278 hitter.

The primary knock on Castellanos is his defense—a career .970 fielding percentage across 492 games in right field, 20 in left, and 527 at third base (where he hasn’t played since 2017) is consistent with his nine-year -10 dWAR. But if there’s any saving grace where his glove is concerned, it’s his right field .988 fielding percentage.

Defense, though, isn’t what should interest the Royals when it comes to Castellanos—his play in the field is passable. Instead, it’s his reliable and productive bat the club should think about.

But can Kansas City afford him? Because he opted out of the final two years of his $64 million Cincinnati contract after last season, he’ll surely be looking for far more. Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects the Royals’ Opening Day payroll will be almost $89 million, but that’s a number reduceable by almost $21 million if they can move Hunter Dozier and the final three years of the four-year deal he signed last spring. With Castellanos on board, there wouldn’t be any room for Dozier—the trick, of course, is shedding all Dozier’s contract.

And that won’t be easy. Dozier grossly underperformed his new deal, slashing .216/.285/.394, a hard-to-swallow line even with his 16 home runs. The Royals might have to eat some of his contract to move him.

But even if principal owner John Sherman can (and is willing to) free up the cash required, will Castellanos come to Kansas City? Players tend to gravitate toward large sums of money, and Castellanos, only 29, might find appealing the challenge of helping an up-and-coming team back to relevance and contention.

The Royals might not land him, but they ought to try.

dark. Next. Why the 2011 outfield was so great

The Royals need stability in right field. Any of three big free agents could provide it.