The Detroit Tigers will enter year three of the Great Rebuild in 2019, which means winning games will be less important than showing off the kids.
Right fielder Nick Castellanos can be a free agent next winter. He’s coming off his best season at the plate.
Would Detroit trade Castellanos to a contender before spring training to get young prospects in return?
The Tigers are preaching patience, urging their fans to be understanding while they plant the seeds of a good team. General manager Al Avila rushed some of the youngsters to the big leagues last year to give a tease, but the overall message is clear: we’re getting younger and looking to the future. Since that’s clearly the case, why keep Castellanos?
Castellanos can only hurt his trade value if the Tigers start the season with him in their lineup. Last season he led the team in practically every offensive category, he set career-bests in runs (88), hits (185), doubles (46), walks (49), batting (.298), and slugging (.500). He came on strong in the second half, showing off his power to all parts of the field. What more can he do to increase his value before the trade deadline?
A trade partner will give up more prospects for six months of Castellanos than two or three months. A trade partner would much rather have Castellanos in training camp than arriving on a plane in the middle of the season.
Maybe some of you think the Tigers should keep Castellanos for when they become relevant again. No, definitely not. Castellanis will turn 27 in March, and while the next two to three years will be his prime, the Tigers won’t be in contention during that window. Plus, his price tag will probably be in the five-year, $65 million range on the open market. The Tigers aren’t going to sign up for that.
The Tigers lost 98 games for the second straight season in 2018. They ripped the team to the foundation under new manager Ron Gardenhire, who seems happy to be back in the game even if his team has little chance to win. The Tigers trotted out 49 players last year, including a franchise record 27 pitchers. Ian Kinsler is gone, Justin Verlander is gone, and now Victor Martinez is gone too. Crowds have started to get smaller and smaller at Comerica Park. It seems like Miguel Cabrera is designated as “last man standing”, marching his way to Cooperstown with a contract other teams are unwilling to touch. What would be the point of keeping Castellanos as an olive branch to fans when Miggy is there to remind them of the most recent glory days?
Castellanos can help a contender, he’s a strong righthanded hitter, fast enough, and he’s getting more comfortable in right field. He has experience at third base too, which makes him attractive in this era of lineup switches that require versatile players.
The best strategy is to trade Castellanos at the upcoming winter meetings, get a prospect or two, and go into next season committed to the young players.
If you’re going to rebuild, rebuild.