Rumors: Texas Rangers remain favorite for free agent Nick Castellanos
By Kenneth Nash
With Marcell Ozuna now off the free agency board, eyes turn to free agent Nick Castellanos, whom the Texas Rangers are still the rumored favorite to sign.
One of the Texas Rangers top remaining free agent targets is off the board after agreeing to a one-year, $18 million deal with the Atlanta Braves reported Tuesday night. With Ozuna gone, all eyes in free agency will turn to Nick Castellanos, the top player still remaining. Castellanos has long been linked with the Rangers and indications this offseason have been that they maintain more interest in him than the aforementioned Ozuna. That interest is reportedly mutual with MLB.com noting that Texas “are perhaps the frontrunner to sign the slugger at this point…” Castellanos fits the bill of the Rangers needs as a consistent, strong right-handed hitter.
It comes as a bit of a surprise that Castellanos hasn’t found his home for 2020 yet considering he entered the offseason as one of the top position players in free agency and was coming off a stunning second half of the season with the Cubs. However, it seems his market might be less robust than anticipated with only the Texas Rangers being consistently linked. Castellanos defensive struggles could be turning potential suitors off as teams continue to stray away from right-handed hitters that provide little to no value with the glove.
Texas seemingly has a plan in place for that defensive concern as they hope to transition him from a third baseman turned outfielder into an everyday first baseman. As of now, first base seems like the biggest question mark remaining for the Rangers as Ronald Guzman continues to develop as an offensive player. While Rougned Odor doesn’t inspire confidence at second base among many Rangers’ fans, the club has a direct replacement available in Nick Solak, whereas Ronald Guzman’s only real insurance at this point comes from other starters playing in other positions.
Castellanos would instantly slot into the middle of the Rangers lineup were in to come to Arlington. A career .277 hitter, Castellanos would be one of the top bats in the Rangers’ lineup joining Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun as the expected big producers for the club. Steamer projects another solid year for Castellanos expecting a .275 average and .821 OPS with 27 homers. Those projections are somewhat below what he produced in 2018 and 2019 which is the level the Rangers will be hoping for if he dons the red, white and blue in 2020.
As far as a time frame, it would make sense that Ozuna signing would speed up Castellanos’ market. However, the most heavily connected teams are the Cubs, Cardinals and Rangers, all of whom are also connected with superstar talent on the trade market. The Cubs are looking to offload Kris Bryant reportedly which would open up payroll space to bring back Castellanos. The Cardinals and Rangers are also the likely two frontrunners for a potential Nolan Arenado trade which has taken some twists and turns recently. Until some of that is resolved, we could see Castellanos sit on the free agent market.