The Cincinnati Reds signed free-agent outfielder Nick Castellanos a few weeks before the start of spring training as the front office doubled down on their quest to become playoff contenders.
Castellanos, a doubles-hitting machine, signed a $64 million, four-year deal with the Reds, Cincinnati’s most recent move to bolster one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the National League. The Reds, who finished 12th out of 15 teams in the NL in runs scored and batting average, also added infielder Mike Moustakas and outfielder Shogo Akiyama
Castellanos broke into the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 2014, four years after they made him their top draft choice. He’s hit 30 or more doubles in five of his six full seasons.
“He will play a lot,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We want to see what he can do and how he fits, in the outfield and in the lineup. We need more opportunities to score. It is going to be really important to get on base.”
Castellanos hit 58 doubles last season, which he finished with the Cubs after being dealt at the trade deadline for a pair of minor leaguers. He became only the third right-handed batter in Major League history to produce at least 55 doubles and 25 home runs in a season, joining Hall of famers Hank Greenberg (1934) and Joe Medwick (1937). Castellanos’ 58 doubles was the 10th-highest single-season total in Major League history.
“I chose to come here because I know this team has a real good chance to win,” Castellanos said. “Being in an organization to win rather than develop can change the person a lot. Last year I was put in an environment where winning was a priority but talking about it is pointless. We have to go do it. Everybody has these plans to fight Mike Tyson but when he punches you in the mouth you have to see if your plan will hold up.”
Castellanos established career highs in doubles, home runs (27) and runs scored (100) last season. He has little use for analytics or shifts. Castellanos hits to all fields.
“Stats mean nothing,” Castellanos said. “When you do something naturally, when you use statistics to try to predict something that hasn’t happened yet, you complicate things. It takes you out of the moment. I’ve worried about those things in the past. It’s a trap.”
Improvement is the key that includes his defense in a crowded outfield where nine roster players are competing for five spots. Castellanos could be a top of the lineup hitter. He has a career on-base percentage of .326, including .356 last season. He’s also one of only five players in each of the last three seasons to produce at least 70 extra-base hits. Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts are the others.
“My journey through the minors has been like musical chairs department on defense,” Castellanos said. “Fortunately, I could swing the bat a little bit. I made to the big leagues in 2 ½ years. Even in big leagues I’ve been bouncing around. This is just my third year in the outfield. Like anything that you want to get better at, the more you do it, you get better at it. Repetition is everything. Competition brings the best out of everybody. I enjoy it.”
Like the Reds’ front office, Castellanos is all in.
“We’re here to win,” he said. “Everybody here is on that same page. We expect to win this year. Anything short of that will be a failure.”
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