Baseball

Burden In My Hand – White Sox Offseason Wish List: Nick Castellanos

Right field has been a black hole of SUCK on the Southside going on, oh, a decade? Magglio Ordonez and Jermaine Dye are the last great players to man the position for the White Sox, and the ineptitude of management to fill the O-E-O/WS MVP sized hole is a bit jarring. Yes, dead last in the entire MLB in 2019 in OPS jarring. The likes of Carlos Quentin, Avi Garcia, and Adam Eaton were passable if unspectacular in stints over the years, but the Sox have also trotted out the likes of Jason Coats, Willy Garcia, Andruw Jones (the ol’ KW past his prime special!), Brent Lillibridge, Rymer Liriano, Alex Rios, Moises Sierra, Michael Taylor, Blake Tekotte, Trayce Thompson and Dayan Viciedo since Dye hung em up in 2009. Folks,,,,, that’s not great!

John Jay was brought in as part of the “recruitment” of Manny Machado last offseason and thought to be the everyday right fielder, but injury kept him out a majority of the year. The cast of characters used to fill in were all way, way under-qualified for every day MLB duty – Ryan Cordell, Charlie Tilson and Daniel Palka all saw far more at bats than any competent team would dare give them and they responded with that league worst performance at the position at the dish. The defense was also meh at best, but with a suspect free agent class the Sox don’t really have the current lineup to hide a defensive wizard they get no offensive production from (otherwise they’d just stick Robert in RF and let Adam Engel patrol CF, but alas).

So who out there is available, plays RF (even barely), can get on base, park a few baseballs into the Rate bullpens and would actually be willing to take Rick Hahn’s checks? Dear reader, you already know him, or got a small taste of him after last year’s deadline.

Nicholas Castellanos, come one down!

Why Him? Castellanos can hit a bit, as the Sox know all too well from being the victim of his bat for almost six years as he came along in Detroit. His 2019 is a little misleading as his high average (.321) helped him to 16 homers and 36 RBI in just 51 games after a trade to the Cubs. That comes out to a scorching 154 wRC+. Prior to the trade, though, he carried just 11 homers and 37 RBI on a .273/.328/.462 line for a wRC+ of 105 in 100 games.

This does help to give him two straight years over 121 wRC+ and that makes him exponentially better than any Sox RF in 2019. He’s also gone .337 and .354 the last two seasons in OBP while averaging 25 homers and 81 XBH, and if he can continue that trend the White Sox probably wouldn’t care if he just hung out in the Goose Island section or had a beer with the #108 guys every half inning.

He’s also only 28, making him pretty young to be a free agent. He won’t come with a QO compensation penalty. Since JD Martinez isn’t available, Castellanos also represents a chance to sign an impact bat this offseason, deal with the defense for a year or two, and plan to use him at DH/LF with Eloy down the road and develop or sign your next RF later. Maybe that plan sees them sign Edwin Encarnacion on a Nelson Cruz-like one year pact (OR SIGN GRANDAL ALREADY LIKE AJ SAID) and just like that you’ve got some instant impact offensive upgrades to a team that sorely needs it.

One other plus – signing him would mean he can’t kill the Sox anymore (or maybe he’d find fun ways to ruin them from within…). This is some recency bias, but since 2018 Castellanos carries 7 HR/22 RBI/.413 OBP/1.065 OPS(!) in 28 games against the Sox, good for a wRC+ of about 185, or otherworldly. Small sample size and all that, but fuckin’ a does he MURDER White Sox pitching of late.

Why Not Him? Oh, that “defense”. Castellanos debuted as a third baseman and Detroit was all too generous to let him try and be that for four seasons while they lost a million games. He made the move to right field in 2018 and is the worst defensive RF in that time, posting -28 DRS (defensive runs saved) and a -17.6 UZR. I don’t know if that all actually makes him the worst RF since 2018, but being responsible for 28 runs scored against seems really bad.

If you want some kind of silver lining, Castellanos did actually improve by 10 full runs in DRS over 2018, and by 8+ points on his UZR, giving him a more palatable -9 DRS/-4.4 UZR in 2019. Still not good by any metric, but not comically bad. He might even be improving, and maybe he gets to a point where he’s league average and look at that I just talked us into Nick Castellanos, league average RF for the Chicago White Sox by 2021.

Honestly, if you sign Castellanos and you already have Eloy Jimenez being the ungraceful elk that he is in LF, you probably need to be ready to take him out of the field within a year or two. So the knock is, will he hit well enough to cover occasionally killing you in the field. And if you’re already looking at re-signing Jose Abreu and you’ve got Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn on deck…is this really the best way to allocate funds/roster space?

How Much Is This Free Resort Weekend? MLBTR comes in with an estimate of 4/$58M and Fangraphs is in agreement with a 4/$56M estimate of their own. Unless some wild market creates itself out of nothing for lil Nicky here I can’t really see him getting more than 4/50, possibly even having to settle for something like 2/25 or 3/35 and a few option years. The bat has enough juice to get him a multi-year pact, sure, but that defense is brutally awful and the game is no longer kind to players of his abilities. Damned kids and their analytics. Without 30+ annual HR potential or a near .400 OBP, there just isn’t any one tool that really carries the weight to justify giving Castellanos that much term, so you’re really banking on his being younger than the rest of the FA OFs and hoping that defense is really improving and the 2018/Cubs version of the bat is the one you’re buying. Whole lotta optimism in there.

The Sox have already been reported to have interest, which probably doesn’t need to be read much into as they should have interest in any OF available via trade or free agency this winter. They’d probably be wise to explore other options and make Castellanos a plan B, waiting out the diminishing market for his type of player to mitigate the commitment for such a walking red flag.

Now that I’ve thoroughly fleshed out that I’m not really on board with a run at him, I have to admit that if the Sox do end up with Castellanos it will be a massive upgrade over the trash heap of career minor leaguers and Machado friends and family that Hahn tried to float by the masses last year. It could absolutely be worse, but I’d hope they explore a few more avenues or wait to see how many other teams are really falling over each other to add what might just be a slightly over league average DH to play everyday RF.

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