Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos is rumored to have all but ruled out a return to the Windy City. Reports were circulating over the weekend he could end with the division rival Cincinnati Reds instead.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi went so far as to say the Reds are the "clear frontrunners" for the slugging outfielder's services. Despite there being a team Castellanos is said to be leaning toward, Morosi said it wasn't a one-team race just yet. The San Francisco Giants also continued pursuing the outfielder in the last few weeks.
Morosi points out that while the Reds' outfield is technically fully stocked, it's stocked with question marks. None of the outfielders that are slated to start next year had the kind of finish to the season Nick Castellanos did with the Chicago Cubs.
Morosi talked specifically about Aristides Aquino who posted a 1.158 OPS in August but slipped to a 0.619 OPS from September 1 on. Castellanos also had a great August, posting a 1.098 OPS and did see that number slip in September, but it was still a very impressive 0.887 OPS.The outfielder thoroughly impressed most analysts who watched his performance down the stretch. After coming to the Cubs just moments before the trade deadline officially ended, he hit 16 home runs and posted 36 RBI in 51 games. By contrast, Castellanos hit just 11 homers and drove in 37 runs in 100 games for the Detroit Tigers.
As Bleacher Nation's Brett Taylor points out, the idea Chicago could bring back their second-half hero was always a long shot. Theo Epstein and company have been extremely hamstrung by budget constraints this offseason.
The team has also gone on the record saying they cannot make any big moves until Kris Bryant's service-time grievance is resolved. The Cubs have had so little flexibility in what they can spend this winter, and reports are they had to drop out of the race to bring back reliever Pedro Strop.
Taylor also points out the Cincinnati Reds signing Nick Castellanos means the team would have the flexibility to trade one of the outfielders they already had on the roster. That in turn, could mean they get another player a position where they are thinner, depth-wise.
For the Chicago Cubs, it would mean a division rival made another move to improve its offense. Nick Castellanos would join Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama as Reds' free-agent hitters signed this winter. Whether or not those moves are enough to help the Reds jump the Chicago Cubs in the standings is still unknown.