2021 MLB Trade Deadline: 5 landing spots for Reds slugger Nick Castellanos

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Don’t let Twitter fool you—Nick Castellanos is more than a meme. The Reds slugger finds himself in the midst of a career season, leading the National League in hits, doubles, batting average and total bases. A potent middle-of-the-lineup bat with power to all fields, Castellanos is the type of player who, under the right circumstances, could potentially swing a pennant race.

It remains to be seen whether the Reds—currently a game over .500 and four back of the first-place Brewers in a tight NL Central—will be sellers at the upcoming MLB trade deadline, but if Cincinnati decides to go that route, Castellanos would certainly be of interest to contending teams in search of offense. Castellanos can exercise his opt-out clause this offseason, creating an added sense of urgency for the Reds should they fall out of contention in the next month. If and when Castellanos leaves the nest, right-field duties will fall in the hands of Aristedes Aquino, who bopped 19 homers in just 205 at-bats (that’s one every 10.8 at bats) as a rookie in 2019.

Teams will have to consider certain risk factors—Castellanos is a liability defensively (his .963 fielding percentage a year ago was worst in the league among right fielders) and may be punching above his weight class right now (.279/.329/.481 career batting line). With a chance to cash in on the horizon, the 29-year-old could very well be a two or three-month rental. But last I checked, .343 hitters don’t exactly grow on trees. Assuming the Reds are open for business (and Bob Nightengale of USA Today suspects they will be), here are five teams that would greatly benefit from adding Castellanos at next month’s trade deadline.

Atlanta Braves
The case for Castellanos in Atlanta is pretty simple. The reigning NL East champs are hitting just .234 as a team and could use a shot in the arm after losing 10 of their last 16. Marcell Ozuna, who flirted with the Triple Crown last season (he led the NL in both home runs and RBI while finishing third to Juan Soto and teammate Freddie Freeman in batting average), won’t be seeing the field anytime soon following his arrest on domestic violence charges last month, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the Braves’ order. Castellanos hasn’t had much success in his career at Truist Park (2-for-13 lifetime), though the Braves have seen what he can do with the stick, as evidenced by his four-RBI performance against them Thursday night.

Chicago White Sox
Castellanos was traded to the Cubs in 2019 (he raked too, batting .321 with 16 homers in 52 appearances) and would be a great fit for Chicago’s other club if the White Sox are inclined to make a splash this summer. The Pale Hose have impressed this season, boasting the American League’s third-best record behind Houston and Oakland. But injuries are piling up on the South Side with Nick Madrigal joining Eloy Jimenez and last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Luis Robert on the shelf. The White Sox have been so shorthanded of late that rookie Andrew Vaughn, a first baseman by trade, has been playing out of position in left field. Desperate for healthy bodies, Castellanos would be a welcome addition to an ailing White Sox lineup currently trotting out the anonymous likes of Danny Mendick, Brian Goodwin and D-Backs castoff Jake Lamb.

New York Yankees
We know New York is keeping a close eye on the $210-million luxury tax threshold, but Castellanos would certainly fill a need for the Bombers, who have labored offensively for much of 2021. Obviously, Castellanos wouldn’t be a threat to Aaron Judge’s job security in right field but he’d represent a sizable improvement on the team’s current left-field tandem of Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar (who has undergone a predictably rocky transition from third base to left field). GM Brian Cashman may prioritize starting pitching (former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer would look good in pinstripes while Jon Morosi of MLB.com has been beating the drum for Twins ace Jose Berrios) at the deadline, but with Aaron Hicks a long shot to return this season, it wouldn’t hurt to at least kick the tires on Castellanos.

St. Louis Cardinals
Castellanos has history with St. Louis (MLB suspended him two games in April for a heated confrontation with Jake Woodford), which may discourage them from pursuing him at the deadline, though on paper, he’d be a great fit for the slumping Cardinals, who continue to lose ground in an up-for-grabs in NL Central. While Castellanos hasn’t had a particularly distinguished career at Busch Stadium (.233/.300/.329 with one homer in 73 at-bats), the reeling Cardinals, owners of the league’s fourth-worst batting average at a dreadful .226, will take whatever offense they can get right now. Assigning Castellanos to right field would allow utility man Tommy Edman to focus on second base, effectively benching Matt Carpenter, who, for all his past accomplishments, simply can’t cut it at the big-league level anymore (.183 with 87 strikeouts in 257 at-bats dating back to the start of 2020).

Tampa Bay Rays
Similar to the Braves, the Rays are hitting for power (91 homers and counting) but aren’t making nearly enough contact (league-leading 795 strikeouts). That shortcoming was especially apparent during Tampa Bay’s recent seven-game losing skid (3.6 runs per game over that stretch). Even in a win over Boston Thursday night, it took the Rays nearly eight innings to notch their first hit. Outfield isn’t Tampa’s most pressing need right now (Austin Meadows, perennial Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier and postseason hero Randy Arozarena comprise the team’s starting outfield trio), but Castellanos would be a monster upgrade on current designated hitter Ji-Man Choi and fits with the Rays’ “win-now” agenda coming off their second pennant in franchise history last fall. Tampa Bay’s well-stocked farm system (recently ranked by MLB.com as the best in all of baseball) gives the Rays plenty to offer in a potential blockbuster trade.

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