Phillies To Sign Nick Castellanos

10:32pm: It’s a five-year deal worth $100MM, Heyman reports (Twitter link).

10:27pm: The Phillies are in agreement with free agent outfielder Nick Castellanosreports Jeff Passan of ESPN (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of the MLB Network had tweeted shortly beforehand the sides were nearing an agreement. Castellanos is a client of the Boras Corporation.

It’s the second notable strike in three days for the Phillies, who agreed to terms with slugger Kyle Schwarber we have a four-year deal on Wednesday. As teams like the Mets and Braves continue to add to their rosters to battle for the top spot in the NL East, the Phils have added two impact bats to the middle of their order.

Castellanos, 30, became a free agent back in November after he exercised an opt-out clause and walked away from the final two years and $34MM remaining on a four-year, $64MM contract with the Reds. The decision was eminently foreseeable, given the strength of his production in Cincinnati. The Reds made Castellanos a qualifying offer, which he naturally rejected, meaning he’d cost the Phillies their second-highest pick and $500K from their international bonus pool. The Reds, meanwhile, will gain a compensatory pick after the first round of the 2022 draft.

Adding Castellanos to a lineup that already includes Schwarber, reigning NL MVP Bryce HarperAll-Star catcher JT Realmutoslugger Rhys Hoskins and the steadily productive John Segura gives the Phillies the potential for a dominant lineup — particularly if young talents like Alec Bohm and top prospect Bryson Stott can solidify themselves as big league contributors. As a team, the 2021 Phillies were a middle-of-the-pack group, ranking 13th in the Majors in runs scored (706), 15th in home runs (198), 18th in batting average (.240), 13th in on -base percentage (.318), 14th in slugging percentage (.408) and tied for 18th in wRC+ (93).

Castellanos, who’ll presumably split time with Schwarber between left field and the newly created National League designated hitter slot, just wrapped up the finest season of his big league career. In 585 plate appearances with the Reds, he turned in a .309/.362/.576 batting line with a career-high 34 home runs. He doesn’t offer a huge walk rate, but Castellanos strikes out at a lower-than-average rate and is a consistent source of high batting averages and slugging percentages.

Long a steady and productive hitter with his original organization, the Tigers, Castellanos elevated his game to new heights upon being traded to the Cubs in 2019. Since that trade, he’s put together an exceptional .292/.346/.571 batting line with 64 home runs, 70 doubles and three triples in 1052 plate appearances between Chicago and Cincinnati. That production checks in at 34% better than league average, by measure of wRC+, and little about it looks fluky. Castellanos consistently posts hard-hit rates north of 40% and barrel rates north of 10% which, combined with his above-average bat-to-ball skills, leads Statcast to rank him among the game’s leaders in expected batting average and expected slugging percentage on an annual basis.

Of course, adding Castellanos to an already defensively challenged team whose signature offseason addition thus far was the defensively challenged Schwarber creates its own concerns. Castellanos has improved his defense in right field since first moving off third base earlier in his career, but he still rates as a well below-average defender in either corner. The 2021 Phillies already ranked last in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved, and that wasn’t an issue unique to last year’s team. The Phillies have ranked among the worst defensive teams in baseball for more than a half decade now, regularly trotting out subpar defenders and embarking on curious defensive experiments that have not proven fruitful (eg Rhys Hoskins in leftfield).

Bringing Castellanos into the mix won’t fix that longstanding organizational flaw, but it’ll nevertheless transform an already deepened Phillies lineup into one of the most formidable units in the entire National League. Given that the Phils also have a strong rotation — Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Ranger Suarez, Kyle Gibson — the hope is that strong starting pitching and a potentially unyielding lineup could carry the day in spite of suspect glovework and a bullpen that has several question marks.

More to come.

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