That nifty picture up above this sentence is of one Nicholas Castellanos, then of the Chicago Cubs, dodging a tag at home plate to score a run against the Cincinnati Reds. If the latest spate of Hot Stove rumors are to be believed, let’s just hope that picture is no metaphor for how the rest of the winter might play out.
According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, Castellanos is one of the litany of big-pop bats on the free agent market this winter that the Reds are watching diligently, following in the mold we’ve seen with rumors connecting them to the likes of Marcell Ozuna, Didi Gregorius, Howie Kendrick, and Yasmani Grandal already.
Castellanos is fresh off another offensively brilliant season, his 58 doubles in 2019 leading all MLB players. Overall, he posted a 121 OPS+ - hitting .289/.337/.525 in the process - but his offense exploded following the trade that sent him to the Cubs from the Detroit Tigers mid-year. With Chicago, he posted a 151 OPS+ with 37 extra-base hits in just 51 games, including a trio of dingers hit against our dear Reds.
Of course, that’s all about his offense, which is legitimately potent. The question, as it always has been, is where the hell to try to hide him on defense. As he’s bounced between corner OF spots and 3B over his career, his defensive foibles have become well known. In fact, of the 150 MLB players who have logged at least 2000 defensive innings over the last 3 seasons, Castellanos grades as the 3rd worst of them all by FanGraphs’ DEF. And if you zoom in on that list a bit closer, only he, CF Adam Jones, and RF Nick Markakis sit among the top (bottom?) 18 names on that list as non-1B names, which just serves to highlight how poor his overall defense has been. With no DH and Joey Votto at 1B - who ranks among those top (bottom?) 18 - that means the Reds would have to shoehorn him into LF or RF, instead.
Considering the rest of the Reds as currently constituted aren’t exactly proficient on defense, adding one of the worst defenders in the game to that mix seems a bit dubious in a vacuum. Ideally, finding a way to upgrade offensively while also at least keeping the defense as-is would be nice, though it’s probably worth the effort to tell you to check that DEF list again to see which name sits head and shoulders above the rest at the top.
In other news, the rumors that leaked out a week or two ago about MLB’s desire to cull a good number of minor league franchises in something of a consolidation move got a bit clearer over the weekend. Over at RedsMinorLeagues.com, Doug Gray notes that four of the Reds own affiliates appear to be on the chopping block currently being considered, including the AA Chattanooga Lookouts franchise. Of note is that the entire Pioneer League and Appalachian League are apparently in the crosshairs, meaning the Billings Mustangs and Greeneville Reds aren’t isolated as cull targets, but it certainly does bring a greater sense of doom towards the MiLB model we’ve grown to know over the years. Clearly, an overhaul of the entire minor league system is long overdue - especially regarding player compensation - but this sure seems like quite the heavy opening salvo to see coming from MLB about potential changes. Stay tuned to this story, folks, as I fear it has only just begun to piss folks off.
Also of note, The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale relayed that the Reds apparently will not view draft pick compensation penalties as a hindrance to their pursuit of top free agents this winter. Only 10 players received and rejected Qualifying Offers this past week, and unless the Reds surprisingly intend to jump into the 9-figure free for all that will surround pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the only real fit for the current roster among that group is Ozuna, as MLB Trade Rumors noted in their breakdown of the quote. Not that a team’s 3rd highest draft pick should really be the dealbreaker of any FA deal, but it’s increasingly hard to really consider Ozuna alone as enough to really think the offense will be markedly improved in 2020.
As Reds.com’s Mark Sheldon detailed, the Reds held a first-year player orientation at their complex in Goodyear, AZ over the last few weeks - one that included almost no baseball activity at all. It’s certainly refreshing to hear that the Reds are going out of their way to develop their newly-minted professional athletes in ways beyond just on the diamond, and hopefully it will foster some cool bits of cohesiveness among some of their top prospects.
We touched on some of the Reds minor league coaching hires last week, but MLB.com has a full rundown of all the MiLB hires in the system, including a return to the manager spot in AAA Louisville of Pat Kelly.
Finally, from FanGraphs, David Laurila recapped last week’s GM Meetings, with quotes from several of the managers generales that were in attendance.