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Nick Castellanos likes his chances on the free agent market. Castellanos reportedly opted out of his deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, officially making him a free agent, according to Jon Heyman.
The 29-year-old outfielder had two years left on the deal. He was set to make $16 million in both 2022 and 2023, plus a $2 million buyout alongside a $20 million mutual option for 2024. So by opting out, Castellanos left $34 million guaranteed on the table — signaling he believes he'll find a better deal on the market.
There's a good chance Castellanos gets his wish. By opting out, Castellanos potentially becomes the most desirable outfielder of this winter's class depending on how you classify Kris Bryant. Starling Marte is the only other outfielder who belongs in that conversation, but he just turned 33.
After leaving the Detroit Tigers, Castellanos blossomed into one of the best hitting outfielders in the league. He mashed .321/.356/.646 during a brief 51-game stretch with the Chicago Cubs. Castellanos spent the last two seasons in Cincinnati, where he hit .284/.343/.550, with 48 home runs across 198 games.
Castellanos' defense isn't his strongest selling point, though that might matter less if the National League adopts the designated hitter during the offseason. It's been rumored that change will happen as part of the league's next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
CBA negotiations could hold up free agent market
In a normal offseason, Castellanos wouldn't have a problem picking up a lucrative new deal. But with the league's CBA expiring in December, it is harder to predict what Castellanos will make.
Animosity between players and owners ran high in recent winters, and negotiations could be contentious. A lockout is possible, and that would drastically alter the free agent market. It's unclear how active players and teams will act knowing the CBA is set to expire. It's also unclear how the free agent landscape will change based on the new CBA. It's possible rules will be introduced that make it more or less desirable for teams to spend on the market.
Even in a scenario where free agents aren't prioritized, Castellanos should exceed $34 million with his next deal. Outfielders who can post an average near .300 with the potential for 30+ home runs are rare, and Castellanos still has a few more seasons at that level of production before his age becomes a problem.