Cincinnati Reds

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

The odds of a Cubs-Nick Castellanos reunion happening have seemed slim all offseason. Although they've been connected to him at various points this winter, bringing back the fan favorite right fielder would require some serious financial gymnastics for the North Siders.

With the Cubs cognizant of the luxury tax, the division rival Reds have emerged as the favorite to sign Castellanos, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi.

The Reds have emerged as the frontrunner to sign free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, one source said Sunday, and there are indications the sides have made progress over the past several days. While Cincinnati is now the favorite to sign Castellanos, the Giants also have negotiated with the 27-year-old in recent weeks.

Because of their desire to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, the Cubs have only made low-cost acquisitions this winter. They were penalized $7.6 million for eclipsing the threshold in 2019; if they do so in 2020, they'll be taxed 30 percent on their overages —  and see their 2021 draft pick drop 10 spots, if they go over the figure by $40 million.

At this point, the only realistic scenario where the Cubs re-sign Castellanos is if they shed salary. However, they've reportedly signed outfielder Steven Souza to a one-year deal, giving them five outfielders (along with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward). That might be the biggest indicator of a reunion not being in the cards.

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Reds officially sign Shogo Akiyama, a Cubs free agent target

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AP

Reds officially sign Shogo Akiyama, a Cubs free agent target

Monday, the Reds announced they’ve signed center fielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million deal.

General manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged the Cubs met with Akiyama during the Winter Meetings, though he admitted they weren’t the only team interested. Besides the Reds, the Rays and Diamondbacks also met with the 31-year-old.

"Yeah, we met with him,” Hoyer said in December. “Listen, a lot of teams were involved. Obviously he's a very good player and he's gonna have a good role on a major-league team this year, but I can't comment beyond that."

Akiyama is unproven as a big-leaguer but had a successful nine-year run in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. He holds a career .301/.376/.454 slash line and hit .303 with a .392 on-base percentage in 2019.

For the Cubs, Akiyama would have been another center field option to go along with Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. He also would have been a true leadoff candidate for the Cubs — an area of need — though likely not as an everyday option.

The Cubs’ tight budget has been discussed ad nauseum this winter. They're trying to stay under MLB's $208 million luxury tax threshold and therefore have been limited in the free agent market this winter.

A three-year deal for Akiyama is semi-risky, considering his lack of big-league experience. However, $7 million annually isn’t a tremendous financial commitment. Perhaps the Cubs weren't comfortable offering that many years and/or dollars, but their admitted meeting shows they were interested in Akiyama.

Instead, he goes to a division rival in the Reds, who have made a number of impact moves this winter to improve following a 75-win 2019 season. 

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Reds reportedly agree to deal with Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

Reds reportedly agree to deal with Cubs target Shogo Akiyama

The Cincinnati Reds have already had an active offseason, but it appears they are still adding players. The Reds reportedly have a deal with Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama.

After rumors of the Reds being the leaders on Akiyama, the deal is agreed upon, according to MLB Network’s Joel Sherman.


The 31-year-old is obviously unproven as an MLB player, but has hit over .300 with an on-base percentage above .390 and 20 or more home runs in each of the past three seasons in Japan.

During the Winter Meetings, general manager Jed Hoyer admitted the Cubs had discussions with Akiyama. He could have filled two needs, center field and leadoff hitter.

Instead of the Cubs getting an upgrade at a position of need, he goes to a division rival that appears to be on the rise.

The three-year deal is a major commitment to an unproven commodity in his 30s, which may have scared off the Cubs. As with any free agent rumors involving the Cubs this offseason, it’s necessary to mention the team’s apparent desire to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax. Until they do so, it’s likely a factor on how the Cubs approach negotiations with free agents.

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