If Nick Castellanos opts out, the Chicago Cubs need to pounce

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

As time goes on in 2021, there has no been shortage of star power across the league this season. Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos has been exceptional in just about every way at the plate. Though he is not guaranteed to hit unrestricted free agency this winter, the common belief is that he will opt out of his current contract with the Cincinnati Reds and test the waters.

Castellanos, who signed a four-year deal with Cincinnati back in 2020, will have a player option that, should he elect to exercise, will let him test the market. Based on the numbers he is having this year, odds are he would be able to net himself an even better deal in its place. The Reds outfielder earned an All-Star nod this year as a result of his dominant showing at the plate, the first of his career.

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Castellanos is currently enjoying the best season of his career at an absolutely perfect time, slashing .317/.376/.567 to go along with 21 home runs and 64 RBI. He also has a combined 52 extra-base hits this year between doubles, triples and the aforementioned 21 bombs.

For the Cubs, bringing Castellanos back into the fold, should Tom Ricketts bust out the checkbook, would be smart both from the perspective of how well he plays the game and it would be a nice bit of fan service given he never should have left in the first place.

In 2019, as many remember, Castellanos scorched Earth in the second half of the season after being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline. He slashed .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers, 21 doubles and 36 RBI in his short time in Cubbie blue. In doing so, he became an immediate fan favorite at Wrigley Field and fans were extremely aggravated when he wasn’t re-signed, given how much he helped the club offensively in such a short span.

I always love checking out a hitter’s splits. Especially someone like Castellanos. In his career against left-handers, he is a .300 hitter in 919 at-bats. That .300 accompanies a wOBA of .370, ISO of .227 and wRC+ of 133. We all saw how much he crushed in Wrigley, but on the road in general he sports a career .321 average against southpaws.

This year, strangely enough, his numbers are slightly better against right-handed pitching. Overall, he is really destroying the baseball at home in Cincinnati, with a .368 average, .357 ISO and a wRC+ of 192 at the Great American Ballpark this year. It’s not everyday you see a slugging percentage north of .700.

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For those that aren’t into sabermetrics and advanced analytics, you can read all about his splits and what they mean here. In short, taking ISO for example, which is a stat that measures a batter’s isolated power, anything over .250 is solid. Your top hitters, we’ll take Shohei Ohtani who just hit his 40th home run, for example, currently has an ISO of .383 against southpaws and .371 against righties.

The reason any of that is relevant , is looking back at Castellanos’ numbers in 2019 in Chicago stacked next to what he’s done this year in Cincinnati, is his ISO of .325 while playing for the Cubs isn’t very far off from the .357 he is putting up here in 2021. To sum it all up in perfect English, Castellanos absolutely rakes in hitter-friendly ballparks such as Wrigley, Great American Ballpark, etc.

Bringing him back would alone be a significant boost in the lineup. There are several bats that are pending free agents this winter that could make a splash on any team next year. Should Castellanos opt out of his current deal and test the market, the Cubs would be foolish not to pursue him with everything they have. Though he had a down year in 2020, on the whole, Castellanos has only gotten better since leaving Detroit and joining the Cubs in 2019.

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After losing the core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, bringing back the former fan favorite would be a nice way for ownership to say “Hey, we do care about winning. Here’s our guy back in blue.”