10 thoughts on Phillies signing Nick Castellanos

What a difference three days and two bats can make.

The Phillies woke up a fan base eager for a winner by making a signing streak this week that started with relievers Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia, continued with Kyle Schwarber and culminated with the shock addition of Nick Castellanos, who agreed to a five-year, $100 million deal Friday night.

Here are some scattered thoughts and observations on the Phils’ deal with Castellanos:

It will make everyone better

Castellanos’ presence should affect the rest of the squad in a positive way. He’ll likely protect Bryce Harper, setting up opposing pitchers and managers with the kind of pick-your-poison decision late in games that the Phillies just haven’t had much time behind Harper.

With Castellanos and Schwarber each capable of hitting 30 home runs or driving 100 runs, Harper doesn’t need to carry the offense for months like he did in 2021. JT Realmuto doesn’t have to. being relied upon as a clean-up hitter or second-tier producer, he can settle more naturally into a complementary offensive role. Realmuto’s strength is his versatile skill set, and realistically he’s probably more of an offensive third or fourth piece for a team with deep playoff aspirations.

From top to bottom of the lineup, Phillies players should feel less pressure. That also includes Alec Bohm, who thinks he’s hitting in the bottom third of the lineup with less control over each AB.

Very fair price for the Phils

The Phillies tapped Schwarber and Castellanos on deals worth a combined $179 million over nine years.

Kris Bryant has been signed to a seven-year, $182 million contract by the Rockies.

Would you rather have Bryant, or both Schwarber and Castellanos for a total of $3 million less over two more seasons?

The Phils pay each of their new hitters less than $20 million per season. They ended up with both without having to pay too much either.

The burning streaks of Castellanos

His hot streaks just seem different, both in length and importance. When Castellanos is locked in, it seems like it’s all a well-hit wide double.

In 2021, he hit .362 in his first 250 plate appearances.

In 2020, he hit .340 with 16 RBI and 11 extra hits in his first 14 games, which was a quarter of the season.

In 2019, he hit .312 with 37 doubles and 20 HR in his last 85 games.

In 2018, he hit 0.342 in his first 55 games.

In 2017, it reached 0.378 from August 30 to September 30. 30.

Overall the last three seasons, Castellanos has an .880 OPS with averages of 162 games of 35 homers and 50 doubles. Not bad.

Range building

It will be interesting to see how Joe Girardi defines this range. Is Schwarber, with his combination of power and plate selection, in the lead?

Do the Phils beat Jean Segura in second to get a high batting average player with speed up the lineup, or do they hit him closer to 6 with Realmuto or Rhys Hoskins in the 2 hole?

How much consideration is left-handed – Schwarber, Harper, Didi Gregorius and/or Bryson Stott?

It bears mentioning that, for some reason, Harper has been much worse at the second batter throughout his career than at third, fourth, or first. It looks like he will stay in the 3 hole after thriving and winning an MVP there a year ago.

The luxury tax

Phillies fans had become skeptical they would ever top the luxury tax after several years of managing partner John Middleton saying they would do it for the right opportunity. This is the kind of stuff you do when you have stars like Harper and Zack Wheeler in their prime and under huge contracts and when you don’t have a bunch of big league ready parts coming from your farming system .

The Phils have about $10 million more than the $230 million luxury tax. If they didn’t spend anything more by the end of the season, they would pay a penalty of around $2 million. As this would be their first year of exceeding the tax, they would be subject to the lower penalty of 20%. Exceed it two years in a row and it goes up to 30%. Three years in a row and it’s 50%. This is relevant because the Phillies will still have a ton of committed money heading into 2023 and 2024, and if they progress to becoming a true contender, the spending won’t just stop.

Defensive limitations

There’s no denying that this Phillies team has an offensive side. In defense, they are nowhere above average except for Realmuto behind the plate and maybe Segura in second. Harper was impressive defensively in 2019, but less so in the past two seasons as he struggled with nagging injuries including a back issue that caused him to alter his throwing motion.

Neither Castellanos nor Schwarber are known for defending. The Phillies will likely have to fight their way to victory with one of the worst defenses in baseball and the ever-unpredictable bullpen. They are well placed to do so with Harper, Castellanos, Schwarber, Hoskins, Realmuto and Segura in the same formation.

Could someone else be on the move?

Hoskins’ situation is worth watching. The Phillies don’t need to trade him, but they’ve added two more midrange bats, one of which can play at first base, and Hoskins has yet to be extended. He is expected to become a free agent after 2023. Maybe at some point the Phils will look to turn him over to pitch. It would have to be the right kind of return, though, a player who could help as much as Hoskins. There’s no great rush for the Phillies to make the move, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

That’s why you bring in Dave Dombrowski

He spent wherever he was and relied more on veterans than prospects. This theme has not changed here. His history in Detroit with Castellanos probably didn’t hurt.

Draft Picks

The Phillies lost their second-round pick for signing Castellanos because he received a qualifying offer from his former team, the Reds.

It’s the fourth time in five years the Phils have lost a high pick by signing a top free agent. This also happened in 2018 with the signing of Jake Arrieta, in 2019 with Harper and in 2020 with Wheeler.

It works better

By quick count, 16 or 17 members of the Phillies’ opening-day 26-man roster were acquired through free agency or trade. This is not how most teams want to operate to build a team that sustains success.

With a $240 million payroll and an expanded playoff field, the Phillies need to make the playoffs in 2022. There will be no excuses unless several of the top players suffer long-term injuries. It has to work this season.

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