A crowded Reds outfield might soon be adding another high-profile name to the mix.
"The Reds," according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, "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." Morosi notes the Giants are also known to have some level of interest in the 27-year-old.
The Reds' interest in Castellanos is curious. The former Tigers and Cubs slugger would arguably be better than any of the team's current outfield options, but what they lack in perceived quality they make up for in quantity. As things stand now, the team has Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin, Josh VanMeter and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama, who they signed earlier this winter, for three spots in the outfield.
Each player has his warts but also offers something interesting on the offensive side of the ball.
Winker is a high-contact hitter who's struggled to stay on the field.
Aquino set the world on fire after his post-trade deadline promotion but went ice cold in September and has major strikeout questions.
Akiyama has an intriguing combination of power and speed but is a bit of a wild card in his first season in Major League Baseball.
Ervin and VanMeter are part-timers who have played well in spurts.
And Senzel is arguably the most well-rounded of any of them, a former highly-regarded prospect with power and speed to burn, but his injury history is long and sordid.
Castellanos would further cloud a picture that's already hazy, but he would also bring more offense to a lineup that already features boppers Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas and on-base maven Joey Votto.
Great American Ballpark would also offer a friendly landing spot for the right-hander, who excelled after a midseason trade to the similarly friendly confines of Wrigley Field. In 51 games following the trade, Castellanos slashed a healthy .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers.
His courtship is one to monitor.
Nats Re-Sign Legend Zimmerman
Speaking of cloudy playing time situations, the Nationals continue to add to a populated infield by bringing back a franchise legend this weekend.
The Nats and free agent first baseman Ryan Zimmerman have agreed on a one-year, $2 million contract, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. The deal is pending a physical and has yet to be formally announced by the club.
Zimmerman joins a group that also includes Eric Thames, Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Trea Turner and possibly even top prospect Carter Kieboom. Turner, obviously, is locked in as the team's everyday shortstop, but the other three positions on the diamond seem to be up for grabs.
The most likely scenario, especially for Zimmerman, is a timeshare with Thames at first base that sees the 35-year-old playing sporadically against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman has mashed southpaws throughout his career, slashing .311/.390/.527 as opposed to a .268/.327/.458 line against righties.
The big question is what this does to the value of Kendrick and Kieboom. The 36-year-old Kendrick was a postseason hero for the Nats last October, including being named MVP in their NLCS sweep of the Cardinals, and he re-signed with the Nats for one year and $6.25 million in December.
With Zimmerman in tow, Kendrick may need to look further than just first base to get his at-bats in 2020. He should steal some plate appearances from Castro at the keystone and can grab some starts at third base ahead of Cabrera.
Kieboom's path may be harder. He is on the team's 40-man roster, but the club would likely prefer the 22-year-old get full-time at-bats at Triple-A than be a part-time player in the majors.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez recently said Kieboom "deserves a shot to make the team" and indicated the young infielder would get a real shot at winning the third base job ahead of Cabrera et al, and perhaps that remains true in the wake of the Zimmerman signing.
In the end, spring training will be a must-watch for fantasy players trying to figure out roles on the Nats heading into 2020.
Marlins Throw Kintzler At Closer Void
Another role worth monitoring will be the Marlins' closer role, a competition that might have gained a frontrunner on Saturday.
Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago reported that the Marlins and free agent reliever Brandon Kintzler agreed to a one-year, $3.25 million contract to bring the right-hander to Miami. The deal also includes a $4 million option for 2021 with a $250,000 buyout.
With the deal, Kintzler immediately vaults to the top of the depth chart for the Marlins. Sergio Romo led the team with 17 saves in 2019, but he was dealt to the Twins at the trade deadline and re-signed in Minnesota this offseason. Jose Urena, the starter-turned-reliever who ended the season as the team's closer, returns, as do hard-throwing Tayron Guerrero and sometimes-opener Ryne Stanek.
It's Kintzler, though, who should be the odds-on favorite for the job. The 35-year-old was very good in the Cubs bullpen in 2019, posting a 2.68 ERA (and a decent 3.56 FIP) in 57 innings of work. Kintzler also has experience closing games, saving 29 games between the Twins and Nationals in 2017.
The job is not an overly attractive one, but the Marlins should be improved in 2020 and saves are a precious commodity in fantasy leagues. Assuming things go well in Grapefruit League play, Kintzler is a reliever to keep in mind in the back half of drafts this spring.
Quick Hits: Athletics manager Bob Melvin declared young pitcher A.J. Puk will go into the season working as a starter. Puk made his major league debut last year with 10 relief appearances for the A's, registering a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. He missed all of the 2018 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old was a first-round pick in the 2016 draft. The Athletics will head into spring training with six top contenders for their rotation: Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo, Chris Bassitt and Puk ... Miguel Andujar will get reps at first base and in left field during spring training. With Gio Urshela's emergence at third base, Andujar will need to add to his versatility in order to receive more playing time. The 24-year-old hasn't ever played a position other than third base, so getting comfortable particularly in left field could be a challenge. Andujar had labrum surgery on his right shoulder last May but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training ... Ryan Braun said Sunday that it's "definitely a possibility" he retires after the 2020 season. Braun and the Brewers have a $15 million mutual option for 2021 that's probably not going to be exercised, so he is likely to be entering his walk year. It seems unlikely that he'll retire, though, considering that he's remained pretty productive as a hitter when healthy. That said, Braun did turn 36 this offseason and is about to have his third child, so perhaps he will indeed considering hanging it up depending on how his year goes ... Cubs agreed to sign OF Steven Souza to a one-year contract pending a physical. Souza will compete with Albert Almora and Ian Happ for a starting role in the outfield. Souza missed all of 2019 with a knee injury and suffered through an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him post a week .678 OPS with just five homers and 29 RBI in 72 games. He was excellent in 2017 however, registering an .810 OPS with 30 home runs, 78 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 148 games with the Rays. He will be a wildcard in fantasy leagues this year due to questions about his health and playing time. If healthy and starting, Souza could provide a power/speed bonanza in fantasy leagues, although he will be a drain in the batting average category -- he has a career .233 batting average ... The Brewers will use both Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta as starting pitchers at the beginning of spring training. It's no surprise that the team wants to keep Burnes and Peralta stretched out as rotation depth. Realistically, though, they're probably either going to make the Opening Day roster as relievers or perhaps begin the year in the rotation at Triple-A San Antonio. Burnes struck out 70 batters over 49 innings with the Brew Crew last season but also served up a whopping 17 home runs ... the Marlins and free agent outfielder Matt Joyce have agreed upon a deal, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. No word yet on whether the deal is of the major league or minor league variety, but Joyce was part of the NL East-winning Braves team a year ago so it stands to reason he earned a big-league contract with the rebuilding Marlins. The 35-year-old hit a respectable .295/.408/.450 in 238 plate appearances with those Braves in 2019 ... Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox "remain engaged" with the Padres and Dodgers on trade talks involving Mookie Betts. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says that the Diamondbacks have also shown interest in Betts. Speier notes that ongoing trade talks with multiple clubs "is not a guarantee that Betts will be dealt," but the Red Sox' willingness to consider parting with the former MVP "appears serious." He adds that the Dodgers are "almost certain to make a significant push" to sign Betts in free agency, but they certainly have incentive to try to land the star outfielder now as they attempt to get over the hump and end their World Series drought. The Dodgers were in on Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, so their appetite to acquire a marquee player is clearly there. As far as the Padres go, trading for Betts would be a bold move for a franchise that hasn't even won 80 games since 2010 ... Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that trade talks involving Starling Marte are "intensifying." Heyman adds that there's "still a chance something gets done before spring training" and that the Mets and Padres are teams that are in on the Marte discussions. Meanwhile, Andy Martino of SNY.tv hears that the Pirates and Mets are "pretty far apart" in Marte talks, so perhaps the Padres are the more likely landing spot at this point. Marte will make $11.5 million in 2020 and has a $12.5 million club option for 2021 ... Christian Yelich (knee) said he's "fully healthy" as spring training nears. "It’s good," Yelich said at the team's Brewers On Deck event over the weekend. "Finally, fully healthy, ready to go. Shouldn’t be any limitations this spring. It’s nice to be healthy again." Yelich missed the final three weeks of the team's season last September after fouling a ball off his right kneecap, suffering a fracture. The all-everything outfielder getting a clean bill of health is great news, and he should once again be one of -- if not the -- top players taken in fantasy drafts this spring ... Mets signed INF Eduardo Nunez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The 32-year-old had a miserable season with the Red Sox, slashing just .228/.243/.305 with two home runs and 20 RBI in 174 plate appearances before getting released in July. Still, he's versatile and has a bit of power and speed, so it's a worthwhile low-cost addition for the Mets ... Brewers shortstop Luis Urias is traveling to the states to get his wrist examined. He developed soreness in the wrist while playing winter ball in Mexico. The Brewers acquired Urias from the Padres in November along with LHP Eric Lauer in exchange for OF Trent Grisham and RHP Zach Davies. The 22-year-old Urias has a .221/.318/.331 slash line with six homers and 29 RBI in 83 major league games over the past two seasons. He is still very young and could develop into a quality major leaguer. Urias is projected to replace Orlando Arcia as the Brewers' starting shortstop this season if healthy ... Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Rockies have agreed to a two-year, $27.5 million contract with Trevor Story. That buys out Story's final two seasons of arbitration. Mark Feinsand and Jon Morosi of MLB Network were the first to report that a deal was imminent. Story had requested $11.5 million from the Rockies via arbitration this season, while the club countered with $10.75 million. The 27-year-old superstar is still scheduled to hit free agency following the 2021 season, which looks like it could be an extremely interesting offseason for teams looking to add via free agency.