On Thursday, in a decision that was foreseen, Castellanos exercised the opt-out clause of his contract to become a free agent, leaving two years and $34 million on the four-year, $64 million contract he signed ahead of the 2020 season.
After Sunday's qualifying offer deadline, players have 10 days (until Nov. 17) to accept or reject the offer. Cincinnati will receive Draft pick compensation should he sign with another club. Castellanos, who turns 30 on March 4, had two opt-out clauses in his deal, but he did not exercise the first one following the shortened 2020 season.
The 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement rules state that if the team that loses the free agent is a revenue-sharing recipient, based on its revenues and market size, then the selection -- if and only if the lost player signs for at least $50 million -- will be awarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2022 MLB Draft.
If the player signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick for those teams would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.
In 138 games this season, Castellanos turned in a campaign in which he set career highs in average (.309), homers (34), OBP (.362) and adjusted OPS+ (136) on his way to becoming a first-time All-Star. That performance helped Castellanos finish as a 4-win player, per FanGraphs’ version of WAR, for the first time in his career.
Castellanos has been a consistent and durable gap-to-gap hitter for much of his career dating back to his early days with the Tigers. He hasn’t posted an OPS+ below 112 (12% better than Major League 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 and led MLB with 58 two-baggers for the Tigers and Cubs in 2019 -- the most by any hitter in a season since Todd Helton clubbed 59 in 2000.
Castellanos developed more fence-clearing power after signing a four-year, $64 million free-agent deal with Cincinnati before the ‘20 campaign, 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’ biggest flaws remain on the other side of his game. He started 134 games in right field for the 2021 Reds but finished with -6 Outs Above Average, per Statcast. He has ranked in the sixth percentile or worse in defensive OAA among qualified position players in each of the past three seasons, with his -17 total OAA tying for fourth worst among outfielders across that span.
His throwing arm also poses little threat to baserunners; per Statcast, his 81.9 mph average on “max-effort” throws (a top 10% of a player’s sample) tied for 135th out of 156 qualified outfielders during the 2021 season.
There is not an immediate replacement for Castellanos’ production on the Reds' roster. Inside the organization, Aristides Aquino and Tyler Naquin could play right field and left fielder Jesse Winker could also be shifted there to play.
Besides Castellanos, the Reds have three other free agents on the market in relievers Mychal Givens and Michael Lorenzen and infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera.