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Nicholas Castellanos signing with Reds presents trade opportunity for Indians

Waves of outfielders in Cincy

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos has agreed to a four-year deal with the Cincinatti Reds, according to The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans.

According to Jon Heyman, the deal is for $64 million with opt outs after year one and year two, pending physicals. If it does go through, it would lock Castellanos up in Cincy through his age-31 season — in other words, through all of his prime with very little risk of a steep decline toward the end of the deal.

Castellanos has never finished a season with a wRC+ below 100 since 2016, and over the last two seasons he has 49 home runs and has been worth 5.8 fWAR for the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs.

While he could have made a great fit in Cleveland, he is far from an elite defensive outfielder (or even a good one). With how much value the Indians apparently place in their outfielders, that may be a convenient excuse to not use the money to sign him.

What this signing does, however, is opens the door for the Indians to potentially snipe an outfielder from the Reds’ deep, now overflowing, outfield. In particular, 26-year-old Jesse Winker could be an interesting trade target for the Indians that wouldn’t cost as much as some of their top-flight fielders. After a pair of 128+ wRC+ seasons in 2017 and 2018, Winker hit a career-high 16 home runs in his first full season in the Reds outfield in 2019.

Winker’s .269/.357/.473 slash and 113 wRC+ in 2019 would have made him the best offensive Indians outfielder not named Jordan Luplow. Steamer projects him to be about the same next season, with a slightly higher walk rate (11.2%, up from 9.9%), 17 home runs, and a 114 wRC+. He’s not much better than Castellanos in the field (Statcast has him in the lower third percentile for outs above average), but he doesn’t hit arbitration until 2021 and he’s not a free agent until 2023. The same amount of control as Castellanos, but cheaper and slightly younger. Everything the Indians seem to like, even with the defensive drawbacks.

In addition to Winker, the Reds also employ similarly young and cost-controlled outfielders Phillip Ervin (27 years old, 102 wRC+ in 2019), Aristides Aquino (25 years old, 119 wRC+ in 2019), and star-in-the-making Nick Senzel (24 years old, 90 wRC+ in 2019). Theoretically, one of them has to go somewhere. Is this enough to reignite talks between the Indians and Reds for some kind of Francisco Lindor deal? Or, hopefully, do the Indians take it as an opportunity to build around Lindor with a young outfielder added to the mix?