Free Agent Target: The Mariners Should Pursue Nick Castellanos
Mariners fans have been talking about having a log jam of outfielders with Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, Jake Fraley, Taylor Trammell, and Julio Rodriguez on the way along with Zach DeLoach behind him. This makes it seem like the Mariners have too many players for three spots. However, in 2021 we saw that there is no such thing as too many outfielders, which is where Nick Castellanos comes in.
In 2021 the Mariners had 1,751 at-bats from all players who played in the outfield not named Mitch Haniger. These at-bats came from nine players and only one of them, Kyle Lewis, hit above .210 as he hit .246 in 130 plate appearances. The other eight players were Jarred Kelenic, Dylan Moore, Jake Bauers, Jake Fraley, Taylor Trammell, Sam Haggerty, and Donovan Walton.
Jarred Kelenic had very extreme months in his season to skew his numbers, but he still was below average on the whole for 2021. He played really well down the stretch and should be much better next year. The Mariners cannot and should not rely on a 22-year-old to save the lineup next year. They need to go and build a better lineup and a better outfield. This means they cannot throw out so many of the players they did in 2021 so often in 2022.
This is why the Mariners need Nick Castellanos.
Nick Castellanos is a very consistent right-handed hitting right fielder who was with Detroit but has been in the National League, with the Cubs and the Reds, most recently. He is a steady offensive player who posted a wRC+ of at least 100 (which is league average) since 2016. Outside of a shortened season last year, Nick Castellanos is a strong offensive threat that would fit perfectly into the Mainers lineup.
Nick Castellanos is only going into his age 30 season next year so the Mariners would be getting some prime years of his offensive production. He should be a lock for at least about a .270 batting average, a 110 wRC+, .330 on-base percentage, and a nearly .500 slugging percentage. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) has been above .800 since 2016 except for a .790 in the 2020 shortened season.
Nick Castellanos profiles best as a right fielder and some fans might say wait, the Mariners have Mitch Haniger. While they both have been primary right fielders, they are both below-average defenders according to multiple advanced metrics including Fangraphs and Baseball Savant. One of them could be a primary DH in 2022 or one could play left field. If one of them can be the left fielder then it would give an outfield of Jarred Kelenic, Mitch Haniger, and Nick Castellanos.
That outfield would put up good offensive numbers and has great upside with Jarred Kelenic but also the floor is so much higher with Nick Castellanos. That pushes Jake Fraley into the fourth outfielder role where he gets less at-bats and other fringe players almost never play. Signing Nick Castellanos would give the Mariners a stud hitter to lengthen and bolster the lineup and push down the outfielders who won’t have as much pressure put on them in the lineup.
How much would it take to sign Nick Castellanos?
The Mariners have about $50 million projected to be on the payroll for next year as of now with Yusei Kikuchi’s player option and projected arbitration salaries. This gives them plenty of flexibility to sign Nick Castellanos to a decent contract.
Nick Castellanos is going to almost certainly turn down his two years at $32 million left on his deal to get a better deal in free agency. This means that the Mariners would have to do a 3 or 4-year deal around $20-25 million per season. A 3 year deal for $60 million total or a 4 year deal for $80 million would be a good deal for the Mariners. A contract like this would not be too much for the Mariners at all and they can make it happen.
Adding a mutual option for a 5th year at the same $20 million per year would be a fine way to convince Nick Castellanos to come to Seattle. He can greatly improve the Mariners lineup and should be a top priority for the Mariners this offseason.