CINCINNATI – In a formality that was already signaled, top Reds free agent Nick Castellanos rejected the club’s qualifying offer ahead of Wednesday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline. That means Cincinnati would receive high Draft-pick compensation if the right fielder signs with a different club.
Castellanos opted out of the final two years and $34 million of his four-year, $64 million contract on Nov. 4. The qualifying offer for 14 Major League free agents was a one-year deal worth $18.4 million.
Only one free agent accepted the offer -- Giants first baseman Brandon Belt.
The 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement rules state that if the team that loses a free agent who declined a qualifying offer is a revenue-sharing recipient, based on its revenues and market size, then the Draft compensation -- if Castellanos signs for at least $50 million -- will be a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2022 MLB Draft.
If Castellanos signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick for the Reds would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.
The other three Reds free agents -- relievers Michael Lorenzen and Mychal Givens and infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera will not bring compensation to the club if they sign elsewhere.
Castellanos, who turns 30 on March 4, batted .309/.362/.576 with a career-high 34 home runs, 38 doubles and 100 RBIs in 138 games during 2021. Besides setting career-high marks in average, homers and on-base percentage, he also had an OPS+ of 136 and a FanGraphs WAR of 4.2, both personal bests.
A fan favorite for his hard-nosed play and ability to deliver in big moments, Castellanos was a first-time All-Star in 2021 and a starter for the National League. He also took home his first career Silver Slugger Award on Nov. 11.
Cincinnati has shown signs it will reduce payroll for 2022 already by trading catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers instead of exercising his $7.5 million club option and letting Wade Miley get away on waivers instead of picking up his $10 million club option. Castellanos could still return to Cincinnati on a separate deal after declining the qualifying offer, but that appears unlikely given the Reds' other recent moves.
Both Barnhart and Miley have clear replacement possibilities, but it’s less clear how the Reds would fill the void of Castellanos’ production. The two most likely in-house corner-outfield candidates are lefty hitter Tyler Naquin and right-handed hitter Aristides Aquino.
Naquin batted .270/.333/.477 with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs in 127 games last season -- all career highs. Aquino batted .190/.299/.408 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs in 84 games.
General manager Nick Krall could also scour the trade and free agent markets for a new right fielder that would come at a lower price point than Castellanos.