There’s been a little to-do between the Detroit Tigers and their best non-Miguel Cabrera player, Nicholas Castellanos. The 26-year old outfielder (in name only — an OFINO, as nobody calls it) who has posted an .831 OPS over the past three seasons clearly wants out of go-nowhere Detroit for a chance to compete. Thing is, the asking price has been outrageous. Per SBN’s Bless You Boys:
The word around the campfire is that the asking price for the man who knows not what quality defense is was pretty high. That word was confirmed more recently when it was reported that general manager Al Avila told the Dodgers that they would need to give up outfielder Alex Verdugo or catching prospect Keibert Ruiz.
That’s obviously a steep price, and even though Castellano’s youth and .500 slugging percentage are attractive qualities, it’s important to note that he’s one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. He posted a -19 Defensive Runs Saved in right field last season, the worst in baseball. By comparison, Mookie Betts was the best right fielder in baseball with a +20 Defensive Runs Saved.
Here’s a helpful table from FanGraphs to really illustrate the difference:
Mmmmm, that’s a piping hot bowl of awful to suck down on this cold winter day (if it’s not cold where you are, swap “piping hot bowl of awful” with “jar full of black jelly beans” and “to suck down on this cold winter day” with “to be forced to eat in its entirety to make your grandma happy”), but it really does highlight Castellanos’ limited skill set.
If you went and checked to see who was the next worst player behind him, then you saw that Bryce Harper was next with a -16. If you think that means Castellanos’ 2018 defense might’ve been fluky-bad (as some say Harper’s was), then I’ll point you to his three-year total of -26, second only to J.D. Martinez’s -30 (Mookie Betts? Still the best with +83 from 2016-2018). Dude can hit annnnnnnnnnnd that’s it.
As a result, since Al Avila’s bold trade asks went unanswered, there hasn’t been much activity on that trade front, even though Castellanos’ agent is agitating for the team to do exactly that and before Spring Training begins:
According to Castellanos’ agent, David Meter, in a discussion with the Free Press’sAnthony Fenech, “[Castellanos] wants to win and understands the direction of the franchise right now is to procure prospects. That being said, he would rather start with his new club going into spring training.”
But Avila has insisted there’s been no interest! quelle drama!
Avila on Nick Castellanos and a possible trade "quite frankly there has been no interest at this point just to be quite frank. It's a different market out there"— Jeff Riger (@riger1984) January 24, 2019
The asking price and the limitations of the player are why a deal won’t happen and he’ll be a free agent after the season, but here’s why it might be prudent for the Giants to consider a deal: Castellanos can hit, and his skill set profiles nicely for AT&T Park. No — dammit — Oracle Park! Yes, even there.
He hit 46 doubles in 2018, fifth-most in Baseball. and his 107 doubles since the start of 2016 are the 16th-most in baseball (9th in the AL). By ESPN’s single season Park Factor, Oracle Park was a slightly easier place to hit doubles in than Comerica Park where Castellanos played. Using FanGraphs’ 5 year factors (2013-2017), Comerica is basically a league average hitters’ park and Oracle a bit unfavorable to hitters.
It was still about as easy to hit a double at Oracle than at Comerica, though, and Castellano’s home / road split last season didn’t show an overly dramatic change (.892 OPS at home, .818 on the road) in performance when accounting for location. His 121 wRC+ from 2016-2018 is 41st in MLB, just behind Brandon Belt (122) and Marcell Ozuna (120). His .495 slugging percentage over that same span is 34th, just 0.05 behind Alex Bregman and 0.01 ahead of Matt Carpenter and Javier Baez.
When you just focus on 2017-2018, Castellanos’ numbers jump up. The slugging holds at .495, but it’s now 30th in MLB. His wRC+ remains 121, but now up to 38th, tied with Jed Lowrie and Andrew McCutchen, and just one point behind Manny Machado. His 49 home runs are just two behind Freddie Freeman and his 35.7 Offensive Runs Above Average are greater than Manny Machado’s (33.1).
According to Statcast, he was 36th in barrels per plate appearance rate at 7.8%, nicely above league average. If you need a refresher on barrels:
[...] the Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.
He hits and hits the ball hard... but he gives it all back on defense.
Now, here’s why the Giants could still be interested:
- Farhan Zaidi says he doesn’t view left field as an important defensive position, suggesting the team could be okay with an historically awful guy out there who can hit the ball hard anyway. Pat Burrell made it work somehow.
Zaidi still confident SFG will boost outfield, said there's no reason to panic. Asked about big names in slow market, he said: "As the market evolves there might be guys that you had kind of questioned or doubted the feasibility of at one point that you circle back around on."— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) January 23, 2019
Could Castellanos be one of those guys? He’s also played (again, badly) third base, the position at which he was drafted, and it has been suggested the Giants could be gauging trade interest in Evan Longoria, so there could be something to Castellanos.
Why would the Giants even remotely consider a “rental” during a Please Ignore Us year? There’s always the possibility of a three-way deal or simply holding on to him to trade him at the deadline. He’ll also just 27 years old this season. There’s plenty of baseball left in the bat, something that can’t be said for the Giants’ aging core.