The Detroit Tigers aren’t focused on trading Nicholas Castellanos this summer, but that doesn’t mean opposing teams aren’t interested in the third baseman-turned-outfielder. The Atlanta Braves, a surprise contender in a tight NL East race, are one such team; they have a scout present at Monday’s Tigers-Royals game at Kauffman Stadium, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
We haven’t heard much about Castellanos on this year’s trade market, in part because the Tigers don’t seem very motivated to move him. Castellanos has been the team’s best hitter this season, batting .304/.357/.513 in 97 games. Many believed Castellanos should have made the All-Star team earlier this month, but he was the victim of a crowded outfield picture in the American League. Regardless, Castellanos has been worth a career-best 2.4 fWAR. He is only 26 years old, and could be a cornerstone of the next Tigers contender if he and the team can agree upon a reasonable contract extension.
Atlanta’s interest in Castellanos makes sense. They are tied for 11th in baseball with a 100 wRC+ as a team, but have been trending downward lately. They are just 6-9 in July, and have scored fewer than four runs per game this month. They have lost four games in the standings during that span, moving from three games up on Philadelphia to a game behind.
#Braves have the second lowest barrel rate in all of baseball at 3.67% (of PAs) yet have a league-average offense of 100 wRC+.— Casey Boguslaw (@caseyboguslaw) July 23, 2018
Castellanos might not have an immediate defensive home in Atlanta, but would be a huge upgrade for their offense. Many Braves fans believe Castellanos could slide into a corner outfield spot opposite Nick Markakis while young phenom Ronald Acuña slides over to center. Current center fielder Ender Inciarte, once a coveted trade target by many Tigers fans, has hit just .244/.315/.340 this season. Inciarte has still been worth 1.3 fWAR thanks to his impeccable defense, but Atlanta could opt to use him as a defensive replacement while deploying a more potent offensive lineup. Castellanos could also possibly play some third base, though 24-year-old Johan Camargo has a solid 111 wRC+ in 74 games.
The problem with moving Castellanos is that his trade value might not be all that high. He has another year of club control remaining, but is limited defensively — even if he has played multiple positions in his career — and won’t be much of a bargain in 2019, his final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency. The Braves arguably have the best farm system in baseball, but might not have to part with any of their more prized prospects if the market for Castellanos’ bat-first profile is as tepid as what we saw for J.D. Martinez last summer.