Time to spend Bruce Sherman’s and Derek Jeter’s money! Entering the third year under new Marlins ownership, fans expect to see significant improvement at the major league level. Some of that improvement will surely come from within, but prospects—as they say—will break your heart. Successful MLB rebuilds make sure to surround their young cores with veterans who can bring credibility and reliable production. Free agent additions figure to be critically important to keeping the Fish on track.
To date, the largest investment that the Sherman/Jeter Marlins have made in any free agent was $5.25 million for Cuban outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa. “Deep Sea Fishing” is a series of profiles on established, available players—all of them projected to cost more than Víctor Víctor—who should be seriously considered by the front office.
2019 salary: $9.95 million
2020 season age: 28
Marlins connection? Nicholas Castellanos was born in Davie, FL and grew up in South Florida. He committed to attend the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship, but instead chose to sign with the Detroit Tigers.
Why the Marlins should want him
For the better part of two years, Castelleanos’s name was the subject of trade rumors for the rebuilding Detroit Tigers. Since trading away high-profile talent such as Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, and Justin Upton in 2017, he had been the lone bright spot on quite possibly the worst lineup in Major League Baseball. There were rumors that the reason why it took until the 2019 deadline for a deal to be made was due to the fact that general manager Al Avila hoped to lock up their right fielder long-term.
The frustration Castellanos had with the organization was a trending topic in Detroit this past season. While some within the organization made him out to be a villian, Castellanos made it known that he would do what he was asked...as long as he had the comfort of knowing what city he would play in. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he already transitioned to the outfield in his debut season of 2013. The fit between Castellanos and Miami is clear cut considering the current lack of reliable outfielders on the major league roster, so neither he nor the organization should anticipate the same type of dispute, especially with the stability of a new contract.
It’s expected that Castellanos will seek a long-term deal, but it’s important to note, especially for a team in the middle of a rebuild like the Miami Marlins, that he is hitting free agency at a relatively young age. He will turn 28 during Spring Training, and has had just one stint on the injured list, which was due to a fractured left hand in 2016. The Marlins have to start spending money eventually, and given his age and offensive productivity, this is the type of player who makes a reasonable case for a five- or six-year, front-loaded contract.
Buyers should be encouraged with how Castellanos’s offensive production increased when getting traded from a cellar dweller to the Chicago Cubs, who were battling for a playoff spot. After the trade from Detroit to Chicago, he raised his slash line from a respectable .273/.328/.462 to an outstanding .321/.356/.646. In just 51 games, he hit 16 home runs, which is five more than he hit in the 100 games prior to the trade. The former Tiger made it well aware that the change of scenery was a motivating factor in his new-found success.
Castellanos on Wrigley vs. Comerica: pic.twitter.com/TlvPMxyP84— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) August 20, 2019
“Miami is believed to be interested in Castellanos,” Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports, citing how his run production would outweigh any fielding concerns.
I’ve said it in a past blog and on the podcast, the Marlins need to bring in players who will attract the interest of the casual fan. There’s no doubt that Miami fans will get behind one of their own, who prioritizes his team’s needs and plays with the type of passion that Castellanos has shown. We can all take something positive from a player who proclaims that every day is Opening Day.
Why the Marlins might not get him
The one knock on Castellanos throughout his entire career have been his defensive flaws, and it is the reason why the Tigers asked him to transition from right field to first base. FanGraphs shows Castellanos has a -36 DRS while playing in the outfield. He would be a defensive liability on a low-scoring team that barely has any margin for error on that side of the ball. With a new deal in place, hopefully he’d be open to playing first, which would also make sense when looking at the current Marlins lineup.
While it was great to see Castellanos start tearing the cover off the ball when going from a team on the fast track to the number one pick to a team fighting for October, it also raises questions about which “version” of the player the Marlins would get in 2020. While the move would be great in the long-term, the last thing this management group will want to invest in is someone whose lack of motivation on a losing team prevents him from performing to the best of his potential, as was now apparent prior to the trade.
Coming off a season where he lead the majors in doubles, Castellanos would bring a leadership role to his hometown team. He consistently hits for average and has shown he has power like Marlins Park has not seen since Giancarlo Stanton. All of his attributes reflect someone that Michael Hill and this ownership group can build round, if they’re serious about their willingness to spend.
Fish Stripes estimates a 10% chance of the Marlins signing Nicholas Castellanos this offseason.
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