Relationships key as Reds’ Castellanos explores free agency

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Nick Castellanos interview: Nov. 11, 2021

Right fielder wins Silver Slugger Award in second season with Cincinnati

Right fielder Nick Castellanos will consider returning to the Cincinnati Reds as he explores the free-agent market for the second time in his career.

“Would I entertain the Reds? Yes, of course I would. Why wouldn’t I?” Castellanos told reporters Thursday. “I feel like there are still a lot of valuable pieces that are very good to win with.”

Castellanos mentioned Jonathan India, the favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award next week, Jesse Winker, “who’s coming into his own,” and Joey Votto, who “reinvented himself” in 2021, as well as as the young pitching staff.

Castellanos informed the Reds last week he was opting out of the last two years of his four-year, $64 million contract to become a free agent. He talked to reporters via a Zoom call while watching his son Liam play baseball because he won a Silver Slugger Award, which goes to the best offensive player at each position in each league, on Thursday. He’s the first Red to win the award since Jay Bruce in 2013.

“It definitely is gratifying,” Castellanos said. “Anytime you’re recognized for accomplishing something, it feels good. Now I just want to do it again.”

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In his second season with the Reds, Castellanos made the all-star team for the first time and delivered the best season of his career, hitting .309 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. He credited his success to his offseason preparation.

“I got my head right,” Castellanos said. “I knew what I wanted to do. I figured out in the offseason how I wanted to do it, even more so understanding that I’ve got to get rid of as many distractions as I can. That’s a big reason why I chose to drop my smartphone and stuff, just to lock it in and see what could happen.”

If Castellanos chooses to continue his career elsewhere, it won’t be because he didn’t enjoy his time in Cincinnati.

“Regardless of however it ends up, I really love and appreciate the city of Cincinnati for embracing me and my family the way they have,” he said. “I appreciate the relationships I had with the coaching staff, and I appreciate the relationships that I’ve had with the players and the fans. I also have to tip my hat to the Castellini family for trusting me. That’s a substantial investment and a chance they took on me. I appreciate them for the opportunity.”

One big name in Cincinnati, restaurateur Jeff Ruby, has promised to pay for Castellanos’ dinner at his three Cincinnati restaurants for a year if Castellanos returns to the Reds.

“Jeff Ruby, you’re the man for putting that out there,” Castellanos said. “I really appreciate that, and I saw that. So hat’s off to you my friend.”

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Castellanos doesn’t want to speculate on his future. He’s planning to stay away from the debates on the MLB Network.

Asked how important it is that he sign with a contender, Castellanos said, “I would say what’s the most important thing is just the relationships I have and the understanding I have of the organization and the direction they want to go in. Who’s a part of your vision? How do you see them as pieces in your vision? How can I assist in growing and aiding said pieces to be better than they are now? How can I make them better in the future? Relationships, if you’re paying attention, you can definitely get a sense of who aligns with you, the way you think, the way you want to go about your game, the way you take the game. You just begin to understand who kind of aligns with that and who doesn’t.”

Castellanos didn’t want to publicly speculate on how the Reds’ vision aligns with his goals. The Reds finished 83-79 last season. They faded as a contender with a 12-17 mark in September and October. Since the end of the season, they have traded catcher Tucker Barnhart for a minor league infielder and seen the Chicago Cubs claim starting pitcher Wade Miley off waivers.

This is Castellanos’ second experience with free agency, and he knows better what to expect this time.

“I’m much more at ease with the whole process,” he said. “I understand it. I’m going to sit back and enjoy it.”

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