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Why the Giants should avoid free agent Nicholas Castellanos

Giants potential target Nicholas Castellanos. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Giants potential target Nicholas Castellanos. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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This article takes an in-depth look at the reasons why the San Francisco Giants should not sign Nicholas Castellanos to a long-term contract.

The San Francisco Giants have had a quiet offseason thus far, despite the fact that many expected them to pursue an outfielder, or even two, after cutting ties with Kevin Pillar.

One potential target still available in free agency is Nicholas Castellanos.

The former Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs outfielder brings youth (he turns 28 this March) and right-handed power (76 home runs over the past three seasons) to the table.

While both of those things are strongly in the “Pro” column, they also mean he won’t exactly be available in the bargain section.

At the outset of winter, he was generally pegged for a four-year contract worth between $50-$60 million. It’s too soon to tell whether that number shifted up or down based on the past market moves.

While fellow second-tier free agents like Madison Bumgarner, Yasmani Grandal, and Hyun-Jin Ryu all did well for themselves this offseason, it is telling that Castellanos and fellow corner outfielder Marcell Ozuna are both still unsigned. Nevertheless, whatever the price ends up being, it would hardly break the bank for the deep-pocketed Giants.

Honestly, most of my argument won’t relate to the finances. I want Castellanos to make as much as he can from the team he picks. I’m more concerned with how he would potentially fit long-term with the Giants.

I can’t continue on for too long about Castellanos without bringing up his defense. He broke into the majors as a third baseman, but has been exclusively a corner outfielder over the past two seasons, playing mostly right field, because he was simply not playable at the hot corner.

In 2018, his first full year as an outfielder, he had -19 Defensive Runs Saved, per FanGraphs). Last year, he improved that to -9 DRS, so he managed to improve a bit with more reps, and there’s still potential for him to continue to creep towards average.

That’s far from a given, though, and playing right field at Oracle Park is notoriously difficult, even with moved in fences. What happens if he’s somehow even worse in the outfield next year?

While some teams might opt to try him at first base if the outfield defense becomes a bigger issue, that is not an option for the Giants with Brandon Belt and Buster Posey still on the team through 2021. Furthermore, it’s reasonable to expect that a 35-year-old Evan Longoria could be spending time at first base in 2022, which is the last year of his contract.

Acquiring a player like Castellanos would just further limit the team’s defensive flexibility. That’s to make no mention of the fact that they already have cheap, controllable, and relatively decent corner outfielders on the roster.

Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson proved capable of handling the bulk of the innings in left and right field in 2020. Yaz posted 2.8 WAR, the same as Castellanos, over 107 games, while Dickerson had 0.7 WAR over just 56 games.

Sure, they’re both older and more unproven than Castellanos, but they’re also on the roster for six and three more seasons, respectively, if the Giants want them to be.

Acquiring Castellanos would push one of them to center field or the bench. Yaz played all of 30 innings in center field last year, while Dickerson stuck exclusively to the corners. Trusting either to play the majority of innings in center would be less-than-ideal for the analytically oriented duo of Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler.

In terms of overall value, mostly putrid defense and mediocre-to-average base running significantly undermines Castellanos’ offensive prowess.

That’s why over six mostly healthy seasons as a starter, Castellanos has been worth just 7.1 WAR.

Nonetheless, moving to the outfield and racking up more extra base hits has allowed him to post the vast majority of that figure (5.6 WAR) over the past two seasons. He has picked it up at the right time.

Still, it’s worth asking, is he really worth a three or four-year commitment?

Offensively, it’s completely fair to wonder what his output would be in San Francisco.

Per ESPN, Oracle Park is by far the hardest stadium to both score runs and hit home runs in. Moving in the fences will help, but it will likely still be tougher on hitters than his previous home stadiums.

If, at this point in the winter, he’s willing to consider a one or two-year contract, I would be all for pursuing him. In theory, a short-term contract would line up well with their the end of their other veteran contracts and allow them to exit the rebuild with a clean slate. He would also give the Giants an intriguing trade chip on a short contract.

He’s undoubtedly still looking for more than that, though, which is completely reasonable.

Next. Giants biggest remaining offseason needs

Given where the Giants roster stands now, their best move would be to pass on Castellanos and instead focus on outfielders who can play center field. The free-agent market is thin there, aside from a potential reunion with Pillar, so it might be time for more creativity on the trade market.

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