'Here's the frosting': Castellanos joins loaded Phillies' lineup

March 23rd, 2022

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- showed up to BayCare Ballpark on Wednesday with the reputation of somebody who plays baseball with an edge.

He is fiery, direct, emotional.

And he did not disappoint in his introductory news conference.

“I’ve played over 1,000 big league games and I have zero playoff wins,” Castellanos said when asked how badly he wants to play in the postseason. “You know what I’m saying? So, cool. I’ve made money. I’ve hit homers. I’ve played on TV. But I haven’t won any games that matter. You know what I’m saying? I would like to do that.”

Castellanos will take his shot with the Phillies. He signed a five-year, $100 million contract to hit in a lineup that includes Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura.

It is a lineup that should score a lot of runs.

And it is a team that should win a lot.

The Phillies think Castellanos, 30, will help because he can hit. It is why Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski asked managing partner John Middleton late last week to take a run at him, even after they locked up Schwarber on a four-year, $79 million contract. Castellanos slashed .309/.362/.576 with 38 doubles, 34 home runs, 100 RBIs, a .939 OPS and a 136 OPS+ last season with the Reds. He has an .853 OPS and 122 OPS+ in the past six seasons with the Tigers, Cubs and Reds.

“Every day John Middleton walks into my office and says, ‘How can we get better? What else can we do? Is there anything else I can do for you?’” Dombrowski said. “I thought that bat sure would look nice in the middle of our lineup.”

Castellanos’ agent, Scott Boras, thought the same. So did Harper, who started texting Castellanos and Boras -- who is also his agent -- more frequently toward the end of the week.

“Nice cake,” Boras told the Phillies. “Here’s the frosting.”

Boras’ agency brought more than that, of course. Its metrics showed the Phillies’ lineup rated similarly to Atlanta’s. If they wanted to outhit the Braves and everybody else in the National League East, they needed Castellanos.

“Of course, your job is to feed the lions,” Boras said. “But John made a commitment to Bryce [in 2019] that when the club had fits and opportunities, he would do things. He’s very much honored that. … When the DH set in, it allowed for another big bat to come in, and they took advantage of it.”

Castellanos broke the news on his Instagram account late Friday night. It was a photo he took of himself sitting on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps in 2019.

So who exactly are the Phillies getting here? A talented hitter, of course. But Castellanos’ teammates talk about his demeanor in the clubhouse, the dugout and the field.

He looks like a guy who feels like he owns the batter’s box.

“I mean, if you want to describe it like that, go right ahead,” Castellanos said. “I think the best way to describe it is survival, right? It’s how I feed my family. I don’t have a college degree. I hit baseballs.”

Does he feel like he plays with an edge?

“Do you think I play with an edge?” Castellanos said.

He seems to play with emotion. Is he an emotional player?

“I think I’m an emotional person,” Castellanos said.

How do those emotions help him hit 30 home runs and drive in 100?

“I have no idea,” he said. “But I’m sitting here in this chair at a press conference. You know what I’m saying?”

Expect Castellanos to play right field, left field and designated hitter for the Phillies. He started his career at third base, but Phillies manager Joe Girardi essentially ruled out the possibility.

“Whatever the team needs,” Castellanos said. “I have a Phillie hat on. I don’t know how good of a pitcher I’ll be, but …”

“Why don’t you stick to hitting, all right?” Dombrowski chimed in.

“Whatever they need, you know?” Castellanos said.

Philadelphia just might like a player like this. Who wouldn’t love a fiery, emotional, ornery dude who hits home runs?

“He’s really built for an audience like this,” Boras said. “I think what everybody in Philadelphia will come to understand is there’s no nonsense with Nick. It’s, ‘I’ve got to win. I want to win. I’ve never won. I’m going to win.’ That’s kind of his attitude.”

“If you’re playing well, they’re going to let you know,” Castellanos said about Phillies fans. “If you suck, they’re going to let you know. I can live with that.”

But don’t be surprised if Castellanos tells them how he feels on occasion, too. He doesn’t hold back.