Castellanos drawn to Reds' 'good character'

Cincinnati introduces new slugger, who will wear jersey No. 2

January 28th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- Introduced on Tuesday at the Reds Hall of Fame, outfielder Nick Castellanos is the fourth major free-agent signing Cincinnati has completed this offseason. Castellanos finalized a four-year, $64 million contract on Monday evening with a $20 million mutual option for 2024.

Every member of the Reds knows that Castellanos’ arrival just lifted the club's already-high expectations to an even higher level. The feeling, for the team and its fans -- who have endured six consecutive losing seasons -- has quickly become playoffs or bust.

“We hit on all the areas that we needed to. We’re in a position where we have the team to make it happen,” Reds manager David Bell said. “For us, it goes back to that, now we do our job and prepare and do all those things that we can to give ourselves a chance to be as good as we possibly can. That’s going to be really good. Allow yourself to dream, and then go back to work.”

The acquisitions of Castellanos, second baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielder Shogo Akiyama and lefty starting pitcher Wade Miley totaled $164 million in new contracts for the Reds.

Improving the offense was the primary objective for the front office after a 75-win season. The Reds were ranked 12th in the National League in batting (.244) and runs scored (701) and first in the Majors in one-run losses (33).

“I think we put this team in a position where they’ve got a very balanced approach on both sides of the ball and a chance to be very dangerous in our division,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “In our quest for offensive impact, it led us to Nick early in the offseason.”

Castellanos, who will turn 28 on March 4, had a big offensive season in 2019, batting .289/.337/.525 with 27 homers. He also led the big leagues with 58 doubles over 151 games for the Tigers and Cubs. He hit 16 homers with a 1.002 OPS in 51 games for Chicago after his July 31 trade.

Castellanos will enhance a lineup that already features Eugenio Suárez, Joey Votto and Moustakas, though Suárez is questionable for Opening Day after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. The rotation could be also be elite with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Miley.

“I really like this team that we have put together,” said Castellanos, wearing his new No. 2 Reds jersey. “Coming over here and facing the starting pitching that the Reds have, I know how dangerous it can be. Playing with a couple of guys on the Reds throughout the Minor Leagues and against them in my career, I’m excited. It’s pretty much all I can say.”

Castellanos will earn $16 million in 2020, $14 million in ’21, $16 million in ’22 and $16 million in ’23. The option for ’24 has a $2 million buyout. He also has opt-out clauses following the ’20 and ’21 seasons, when he can become a free agent.

Having an opt-out after the first year is highly unusual, and it certainly creates the possibility that Castellanos will depart after one year in Cincinnati. He deflected those questions to his agent, Scott Boras.

“I think the fans have to understand that this is no different than having a player here in the last year before his free-agent period,” Boras said following the press conference. “They hope he has a great year. He hopes he has a great year, because no matter what happens in this scenario, if he does have a great year, that means the production the club hoped for will happen. The other aspect is having success in a place and understanding the player, it fosters greater discussion as well.

“These types of contracts, for me historically, have worked out very well for both club and player.”

Boras also represents Moustakas, who signed his own four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds in December and now shares the club record free-agent signing with Castellanos.

“If you told me at the beginning of this offseason that the over/under on doing press conferences with Scott Boras here in Cincinnati was two, I would’ve taken the under, I think,” Williams said.

It was the Moustakas signing that helped pave the way to get Castellanos to also join the Reds.

“Once we landed Moose here, we saw the development of the internal synergy and Dick and [general manager] Nick [Krall] mentioned to me, ‘We aren’t done.’ With that in mind, we really started looking at this in-depth,” Boras said.

Castellanos already has a relationship with Suárez from when they were in the Tigers’ organization. Castellanos also liked being embraced by the new teammates he hadn’t previously met.

“Knowing [Suárez’s] character and personality, laughing with him in center field before the games start, the little conversations and listening to interviews that Joey Votto has given, playing against Mike Moustakas and Curt Casali, Tucker [Barnhart], just seeing these guys, it seems like all of them have very good character,” Castellanos said. “That’s huge when you want to build a team that is all going for one common goal. I think it means a lot as soon as the news breaks and I’m getting text messages from guys who don’t have my number saying, ‘Welcome to the squad, we’re all really excited to have you.’”