With the trade deadline just over a month away, we’re starting to develop a better sense of who will be made available in talks. The Detroit Tigers, for example, are expected to continue shopping every veteran on the roster, including starter Matthew Boyd and closer Shane Greene. Both figure to have their fair share of suitors leading up to the deadline. The inverse might be true of outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, who may find himself frozen out of the silly season.
Castellanos is essentially a homebrewed J.D. Martinez. He’s relatively young (this is his age-27 season) and accomplished (this will be his fourth year in a row with an OPS+ over 100), but he’s more of a good hitter than a great one — and his athleticism has never translated into him being even a scratch defender at either third base or in the corner outfield. In an ideal world, some team slots him in at DH (or first base) and that’s where he spends the next decade.
Earth is not an ideal world, however, and there are various factors working against Castellanos being a sure bet to be dealt ahead of the deadline. His market is being limited by his skill set, sure, but the Tigers are said to be asking for a lot in return — especially considering they have little stated interest in extending him, and that league sources believe he’ll have to settle for a one-year deal when he reaches free agency this winter. There’s also the complexion of the American League playoff race.
Entering Saturday, there were nine AL teams who either had a share of a playoff spot or were within five games of one. Of those nine, most of them have little need for another DH. To wit, the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and Tampa Bay Rays have received the most production out of their DH slot. The New York Yankees have already acquired Edwin Encarnacion to help out at DH, while the Oakland Athletics (Khris Davis) and Boston Red Sox (Martinez) are set as well. That’s eight teams. Do the math and there’s one AL contender who could reasonably be expected to look for a DH at the deadline: Cleveland.
Even Cleveland’s interest in Castellanos can’t be taken for granted. At the moment, Cleveland is giving Bobby Bradley a chance to solidify himself as a rest-of-season option. He hasn’t proven much thus far, but he was the minor-league home-run leader at the time of his promotion for a reason, and it’s possible he shows enough in the coming weeks to merit a longer audition. Of course, a struggling Bradley may not lock in Cleveland’s interest anyway since there’s no telling how much salary Cleveland’s ownership will permit the team to take on at the deadline. Castellanos, for the record, is set to make just under $5 million the rest of the way.
Perhaps a National League team (or an AL team with an outfield opening) will overlook Castellanos’ defense and acquire his stick for the stretch run. But as it stands, the Tigers may have to work harder than expected to move him.