Big Stick Nick Castellanos is now a Cincinnati Red, signing a 4 year $64 million dollar deal to play for the Reds. There are 3 points of bonus interest in the contract, with opt out clauses after both years one and two, and a 5th year $20 million dollar mutual option/$2 million buyout. Overall, it's a $16 million AAV.
Back at the beginning of November I made the following prediction on BSN:
Pronkediction (Pronk prediction): Much like Josh Reddick for Houston, I think the Cubs front office wants to keep Castellanos around. I think this could go one of two ways. 1: Short term deal: Castellanos can't get big offers, and takes a 1 or 2 year prove it type of deal for $15 million or so per year. This allows him to re-enter the free agent market if he can step up his production. 2: Long term deal: This could be his only shot at a long term 5-7 year type of deal. He could get a J.D. Martinez like $70-$120, averaging $11-$17 million per year. Opt outs and no trades can be a factor as well. I think BSN comes back to Chicago on a 5 year deal worth around $85 million. I think he pushes for an opt out after 2 years so he can re-enter the market if he becomes an elite bat. There's a chance that if nobody else is really bidding for him, he could sign for under $13 million per year on a shorter term deal.
Turns out I was way wrong on the Cubs due to their inability to flex on the luxury tax. But I was off by just $1 million on the AAV. I did not predict opt outs, but did allude to him getting extra chances at free agency, which his opt outs can provide. His overall money is much lower than I predicted, but there's a certain value to opt outs which we'll have to jump into at some point.
For now, I'd like to examine what the Cubs will do without BSN. Staci already wrote up a nice piece on Castellanos's production, and how defensively he was a bit of a square peg for a round hole given the Cubs's lack of a CF but also having Heyward entrenched in RF. I don't want to rewrite her same points, but would rather talk about past and projected production.
Here are the 2019 numbers:
Castellanos: .289/.337/.525 for a .863 OPS (.790 in 439 PAs with DET and 1.002 in 225 PAs with CHC)
Happ: .264/.333/.564 for a .898 OPS in 156 PAs
Heyward: .251/.343/.429 for a .772 OPS in 589 PAs
Immediately, we see that Happ outproduced Castellanos for the season, granted in much different sample sizes. This is mainly due to Happ's slugging. Happ made $603,000 last year, and is still pre-arb--nearly 1/32th of what Castellanos will make. So ideally, Happ is ready for full time action, and the Cubs theoretically improve at a much lower cost.
In terms of projections for 2020:
Castellanos: .275-.281/.331-.334/.490-.497 for an RC+ of 112-115
Happ: .238/.332/.444-.451 for an RC+ of 100-101 (despite a career RC+ of 112)
Heyward: .259-.261/.338-.342/.414-.418 for an RC+ of 98-99
The evaluation is pretty clear. The key is Happ. The Cubs think that Happ can more or less equal Castellanos with the bat, and can play CF. Heyward might be subpar with the bat, but will hold up RF production with his glove. I am betting that they think Happ is for real, figured out his issues with minor league seasoning in 2019, and will be a full time contributor in '20. If he can get full time at bats and maintain his same career RC+, then the Cubs likely just saved $16 million and increased roster flexibility. While Castellanos was amazing with the Cubs, we likely saw a peak. Here's a chart I drew on up on Castellanos's rolling OPS over 60 game stretches.
So BSN has peaked like that one other time in his MLB career. Maybe his spike in production wasn't completely unexpected, but it's clearly not the norm for him to put up an OPS of 1.000 consistently. If anything, he's had a couple decent slumps over the last 3 years. The Cubs got him at his best, and BSN cashed out for it.
Good for Castellanos. Good for the Cubs. Win-Win all around. The Cubs have a decent and much cheaper plan to fill the void of BSN's production.