CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies are trying to slug their way into the postseason.
The Phillies and Nick Castellanos agreed to a five-year deal, the club announced on Tuesday. The deal is expected to be worth $100 million, though the terms were not disclosed. Castellanos has been one of baseball’s best sluggers over the past several years, but after the Phillies and Kyle Schwarber agreed to a four-year, $79 million contract on Wednesday, there was little reason to think that the Phillies would take a run at Castellanos, too.
But they did.
And they got both.
The Phillies had been telling people on Thursday that they were likely finished with the heavy lifting for their 26-man roster, hoping to perhaps supplement the roster with a bench bat to replace Brad Miller or add another relief pitcher for the late innings. But as Castellanos lingered on the market, the Phillies saw an opportunity to add more firepower to a lineup that is going to need to hit against some tough pitching in the National League East.
So, the Phillies decided to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax for the first time in franchise history. Phillies managing partner John Middleton had said multiple times over the years that ownership would exceed the threshold for the right player, and in Castellanos the club sees a player that can dramatically improve its chances to grab one of the NL's six postseason berths. One source said on Wednesday that Philadelphia had just under $10 million remaining before it reached the luxury tax threshold of $230 million. If that estimate is accurate, it means the Phillies just shot $10 million over.
The Phillies will surrender a second-round pick in the 2022 Draft, too, because the Reds made Castellanos, 30, a qualifying offer after last season.
But what’s the luxury tax and a second-round pick when you can get a bat like Castellanos? He 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+ the past six seasons with the Tigers, Cubs and Reds.
Castellanos hasn’t posted an OPS+ below 112 (12 percent better than average) in any full season since 2017, and his 1,075 games played since 2014 rank 15th in the Majors. The Florida native emerged as a doubles machine toward the end of his tenure in Detroit. He led the Majors with 58 doubles for the Tigers and Cubs in 2019 -- the most by any hitter in a season since Todd Helton hit 59 in 2000. Castellanos developed more fence-clearing power after signing a four-year, $64 million free-agent deal with Cincinnati before the 2020 season, averaging a homer for every 16 at-bats across the last two seasons. He posted virtually no difference in platoon splits, finishing with a .936 OPS against righties and a .945 OPS against southpaws.
Castellanos opted out of the final two years of the Reds deal, leaving $34 million on the table.
He bet that he could do better. He did.
Castellanos’ and Schwarber’s arrivals could give the Phillies their best offense since the teams that routinely hammered National League pitching under Charlie Manuel from 2005-11.
One Phillies lineup could be:
Kyle Schwarber LF/DH
J.T. Realmuto, C
Bryce Harper, RF
Nick Castellanos, DH/LF
Rhys Hoskins, 1B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Jean Segura, 2B
Alec Bohm, 3B
Matt Vierling, CF
Castellanos can play both corner-outfield spots, third base and DH. He gives Phillies manager Joe Girardi more lineup versatility as the Phillies intend to use their everyday players to DH. That includes Harper, Realmuto, Hoskins, Schwarber and Castellanos. If Castellanos had not arrived, the Phillies could have been looking at Odúbel Herrera or Johan Camargo as the team’s DH on Opening Day.
Castellanos is regarded as a below average outfielder, like Schwarber. Castellanos is -43 Outs Above Average in the outfield since 2016, according to Statcast. Schwarber is -38 OAA. They are the second- and fourth-lowest marks in baseball in that span, respectively.
But the Phillies aren’t going past the luxury tax for Castellanos’ glove. They went over because of his bat. The Phillies are betting they can outhit everybody in the National League East in pursuit of their first postseason appearance since 2011.