When Nick Castellanos was called up to Detroit a few years ago, expectations were high, and he did his best to meet them. Back in 2014, the then-third baseman finished eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Since then, his bat has improved a bit but his glove has gotten even worse. It has caused him to move away from the hot corner and after another steady offensive season in 2017, it seemed like his value would never be higher. In 2018, Castellanos has found another level to his game.
Through 60 games, the now-right fielder is hitting .333/.375/.514 with six home runs, 20 doubles, three triples and 33 RBI. His 1.9 WAR is the seventh-highest among right fielders, but his 14.2 offensive rating is above names like George Springer, Bryce Harper and Nick Markakis at the position. If Castellanos could make a move to another American League team with an opening at DH, his value would improve even further.
Castellanos is a disaster in the field. There is no getting around it. Moving him to a corner outfield spot in recent years has helped to hide his lead mitt a bit. But his complete lack of range (-2.0 UZR in 2018) is still a problem that will only further deteriorate as he ages. Considering he is still just 26 years old, there is quite a long way to fall.
The Tigers are having a better season than many expected. As of this writing, they sit in second place of the AL Central with a 29-34 record. However, that is deceiving given the division in which they play. The Tigers would need to win the central to have any shot at the playoffs. That’s unlikely to happen with the Cleveland Indians ahead of them.
Victor Martinez, Detroit’s current everyday DH, will be a free agent after this season. HIs departure would open up a spot for Castellanos to take over that position and allow the club to fill the void in right field with a more defensively-adept option.
However, the Tigers really need to enter more of a rebuild mode. Miguel Cabrera has several years remaining on his lengthy contract, but he is surrounded by a bunch of younger players with no clear building blocks. Justin Verlander was traded away in 2017. Ian Kinsler left over the winter. Martinez is a shell of his former self.
Selling high on Castellanos, who has over a year left before reaching free agency, could be just what they need to launch a full-on rebuild plan. While the team’s current right fielder is a nice piece that just about any club would welcome to their lineup, he is not a true star. But he could be worth a handful of prospects that may include the next centerpiece to a Tigers playoff team.
It’s not exactly a fair comparison, but look to the Orioles as a cautionary tale for something like this. At one point, both Manny Machado and Zach Britton were two of the hottest commodities in the game. Now, both have less than one year left before hitting free agency. Baltimore waited too long before considering to trade them, and now they may have to settle for an unsatisfying return. The Tigers would do well to avoid that and cash in on Castellanos while he’s hot.