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Mailbag: Assessing Nick Castellanos’ trade value

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Castellanos could be one of the Tigers’ most valuable trade chips this winter.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

One of the most unfortunate things about seeing your favorite team miss the MLB postseason is the dearth of news and rumors throughout the month of October. We have been fortunate that the Detroit Tigers are currently searching for a new manager, but previous years without playoff baseball have not afforded such headlines. There’s only so much speculation one can do until the rumor mill starts churning.

Fortunately, we’re almost there. The AL and NL Championship Series are both heading to elimination games in the next couple days, and the World Series will be over within the next two weeks. While I don’t use the word “fortunately” much when the baseball season is nearing its end, it will be nice to see what direction the Tigers take as they continue their rebuild this winter.

Until then, we’re left with more speculation. And as always, feel free to drop your mailbag questions on Twitter or in the comments below.

This may seem weird, but I almost wonder if Nicholas Castellanos is the Tigers player most likely to be traded this offseason. Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler both have one year remaining on their respective contracts before they hit free agency after the 2018 season. This makes them a little easier to move than Castellanos, who is weighed down by (a) an extra year on his contract, and (b) the kind of prospect pedigree that jacks his price up a bit.

However, I worry about the market for both middle infielders. Every contender in the business has a young, talented shortstop right now, and most of them are already better than Iglesias. He will be too expensive to acquire as a utility infielder, and doesn’t have the offensive upside to slide over to second or third base. There are a few more holes at second base around the game — looking at you, Milwaukee — but Kinsler’s age and 2016 struggles will suppress his value some. While the Tigers will surely want something for him before he hits free agency, having him mentor young players for four months before the trade deadline is useful too.

That leaves Castellanos, who has produced an isolated power (ISO) above .200 in each of the past two seasons. He finally stayed healthy enough to put up better counting stats this year, but I imagine opposing teams have already noticed his improved power and rising exit velocity figures. His defense is still a deterrent, of course, but there might be a team or two that sees his newfound versatility as a positive. Plus, with an extra year remaining on his deal, he might fetch a little more in return than either Kinsler or Iglesias.

Realistically, I think we will see a rather tepid market for all three players. Iglesias and Kinsler didn’t draw much interest in July, and Castellanos passed through revocable waivers in August; you wouldn’t expect him to if someone were really interested in him.

Have you seen this year’s crop of free agent starters? There are three(ish) tiers:

  • Stars with ridiculously cheap team options that won’t actually become free agents (Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale will be making $12 million apiece next season)
  • Stars who will get paid ridiculous contracts out of Detroit’s price range (Jake Arrieta, Masahiro Tanaka)
  • Something called a Miles Mikolas
  • Aging veterans who will leave you pining for the halcyon days of Mike Pelfrey and Alfredo Simon

Okay, so that last tier isn’t that bad, but I’m struggling to find anyone even remotely interesting. Andrew Cashner and Francisco Liriano were intriguing a year or two ago, but probably don’t have much upside remaining. Both could be solid innings eaters, but they won’t be the strikeout monsters many will hope for. Nathan Eovaldi is young and throws hard, but has a $2 million contract option that will probably be exercised. He’s also coming off of Tommy John surgery, which would make it even more concerning if Tampa declines his option. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb will get more money than the Tigers should be spending on a free agent starter, and many of the other players available are re-treads who probably won’t be that much better than replacement level.

The lone exception might be Michael Pineda. The 28-year-old Pineda was enjoying one of his best seasons to date in 2017 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. While this will keep him out of action for most (if not all) of 2018, we could see Pineda sign a contract similar to that of the aforementioned Eovaldi, Pineda’s former teammate. If the Tigers give him a one-year deal with a club option for 2019, he might be able to rehab his value enough to become a trade chip that year. Sure, he might not help much next year, but neither will many of the other pitchers on the market.

I don’t know if this is the boring answer, but I’m really high on Jeimer Candelario. I was excited when the Tigers brought him in this summer, and his performance down the stretch only elevated his ceiling in my eyes. Candelario has a great feel for hitting, which we saw as he produced an .874 OPS in 106 plate appearances in a Tigers uniform. He is a capable switch hitter and has displayed plenty of patience throughout his time in the minor leagues. He hits for some power as well, and should play average defense at third base. While he might not be a star, a 3-4 win player is nothing to scoff at.

The other easy answer is Michael Fulmer. I’m still skeptical that the team would try to trade him, but it’s certainly possible. He has a rather lengthy injury history for a 24-year-old pitcher, and has out-performed his peripheral numbers thus far. If the right offer comes along, I wouldn’t begrudge Al Avila one bit for trying to sell high and take the prospect haul.

Of anyone in the Tigers organization with zero MLB experience, I’d pick Alex Faedo to be the team’s WAR leader. Matt Manning and Franklin Perez are ranked a little higher on most prospect leaderboards at the moment, but Faedo should move much quicker through the minor league ranks. I loved what I saw from him during the College World Series, and I’m hopeful that the Tigers can smooth out his delivery over the next couple seasons. He has the power fastball-slider combo that pitching coaches dream of, and is a solid changeup away from being an above-average major league starter.

Nope, not yet. I joked on Twitter that the Tigers should just ask for Justin Wilson back so that they could rehabilitate his value and trade him at the deadline next year.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers try to move Shane Greene next July if someone else comes calling with a massive prospect package. The Chicago White Sox were able to acquire outfielder Blake Rutherford, MLB.com’s No. 39 prospect in all of baseball, in exchange for a pair of relievers this summer. The other players in that deal, pitcher Ian Clarkin and outfielder Tito Polo, are also more than just trade fodder. Greene would be nice to have when the Tigers return to contention, but he could be better used as a trade piece if another team gets desperate.