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Castellanos on rumors: 'My job is to play'

@beckjason
June 14, 2019

DETROIT -- The Trade Deadline is just under seven weeks away, which means Nicholas Castellanos' name is going to be in the news again. He was ready for it when reporters ventured to his corner of the home clubhouse at Comerica Park on Friday. “I've been in trade talks since,

DETROIT -- The Trade Deadline is just under seven weeks away, which means Nicholas Castellanos' name is going to be in the news again. He was ready for it when reporters ventured to his corner of the home clubhouse at Comerica Park on Friday.

“I've been in trade talks since, what, the offseason of '17,” Castellanos said. “Last Trade Deadline, I dealt with it. This whole offseason, I dealt with it. And now, I'm still kind of dealing with it. So it's not like it's a brand-new situation for me, really, you know?”

This time, there's a difference: With free agency looming at season’s end, he knows chances are good that he'll be dealt before July 31. Even if he isn’t traded, he’s prepared for the likelihood that he’ll be playing out his final season in Detroit.

Castellanos doesn’t feel unwanted, he said, but he also isn’t naïve to the situation, with the Tigers in the midst of a rebuild and unlikely to invest in long-term deals until next offseason once Jordan Zimmermann’s contract is off the books. The Tigers have made little secret about it since last season, when general manager Al Avila said that they’d listen to trade offers and could potentially make Castellanos a qualifying offer to recoup a Draft pick in free agency if they’re unable to trade him.

“I'm not a general manager,” he said. “I'm not out here begging for an extension. I'm not out here saying that what they're doing is wrong. That's their job. They have to do it the best way that they see fit, with the people that they see fit. And my job is to play baseball and to keep myself healthy and to go out and compete and be in a uniform as long as I possibly can for whatever team would like my services to help win.

“The more that I've been in this game, you kind of start realizing that. And you hear veterans like Victor [Martinez] and Torii [Hunter] and Austin Jackson, K-Rod [Francisco Rodriguez] talk about it the same way: Be careful falling in love with the name on the front of the jersey, because it's a business."

Castellanos has not been approached about an extension, he said, and he hasn’t brought it up since the final weeks of last year, when the Tigers asked him about moving from right field to first base.

“I told them, 'If you offer me an extension, if you show me that I am a piece of future, I'll play first,'” Castellanos said. “I'll even throw bullpens for you. But give me that security.' Because from when I got drafted, I got drafted as an amateur shortstop. I played third base for a year in the Minor Leagues. Then I had to play right field in Double-A, left field in Triple-A, made my debut as a left fielder, and then thrown back at third base on a team that was expected to win in the World Series. So when did I find myself in a position where I can focus on getting really comfortable in one spot and not always having to learn something new while still producing and performing?

“So last year, when obviously there was no commitment towards me, I chose: I just want to stick to right and try to be as good as I can in one spot. That was the first time where I said no. I've said yes a lot. So last year, it was just like, ‘No, not right now. I'm going to continue taking my reps in right field and be as best as I can out there.’”

Castellanos has improved from minus-19 Defensive Runs Saved in right field last year to minus-3 so far this season, according to FanGraphs. His minus-24 Outs Above Average last season ranked last among qualified outfielders, per Statcast. He’s at zero OAA in '19.

What that means on the trade market or in free agency remains uncertain. If Castellanos can land with a team with a chance to play for the postseason, he said, he’ll cherish a chance to play in his first playoff games since his rookie year in 2014, when the Tigers were swept by the Orioles in the American League Division Series. But he also isn’t hinging his emotions on it, since he doesn’t have a say in a deal.

“I love this organization,” he said. “This organization is like a college, so to speak. I didn't go to college. I got drafted and off I went to the Minor Leagues, and I grew up in this organization. I turned from an 18-year-old teenager to a man in this organization. I became a father in this organization. I've had struggles on the field and off the field in this organization, in front of this fan base. I have family here in Michigan. I love Detroit. I love the Tigers. But like I said back at Fanfest two years ago, you don't always get Plan A. You work your butt off for Plan A. But at the end of the day, whatever you're dealt, you have to make the best of it.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.