PHILLIES

Phillies sign slugger Castellanos, bolster lineup, blow past luxury tax

PHILLIES

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies continued their mid-March spending spree when they agreed on a five-year, $100 million contract with free-agent slugger Nick Castellanos late Friday night, multiple sources confirmed.

The deal caps a week in which the Phillies previously signed relievers Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand to one-year deals that totaled $12 million and slugger Kyle Schwarber for four years and $79 million. The Phils also brought back Odubel Herrera for one year and $1.75 million. Back in November, the team signed closer Corey Knebel to a one-year, $10 million contract.

In total, the Phils have spent over $202 million on free agents this offseason.

The team’s payroll for 2022 now projects to be in the neighborhood of $240 million, over the new competitive balance tax threshold of $230 million, which is officially calculated at the end of the season.

The Phils have never gone over the tax, but owner John Middleton has consistently said the club would do so for the right opportunity.

Castellanos is that opportunity.

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The 30-year-old outfielder hit .309 with 34 homers, 100 RBIs and a .939 OPS in 138 games for Cincinnati last year.

Castellanos is the fourth player on the Phillies roster with a contract worth at least $100 million. Bryce Harper ($330 million), Zack Wheeler ($118 million) and J.T. Realmuto ($115 million) are the others.

Castellanos can play both corner outfield positions and serve as a designated hitter. The Phils are expected to use him and Schwarber in all of those roles as the team shuttles players between the field and the National League’s new DH spot. Castellanos could be used in right field on days that Harper serves as the DH. Schwarber can also play first base, which would put Rhys Hoskins into that mix.

 

Like Hoskins, Harper and third baseman Alec Bohm, Castellanos is a client of agent Scott Boras. Castellanos played third base earlier in his career but not since 2017.

Defense was a weakness for the Phillies in 2021. Neither Castellanos nor Schwarber are considered strong defenders in the outfield. But both have 30-plus homer power in their bats and strong on-base skills. Add them to a lineup that includes Harper, Hoskins, Realmuto and Jean Segura and the Phillies will try to outscore their defensive shortcomings.

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Castellanos’ deal, first reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network, is pending a physical. There is no opt-out or no-trade clause.

The Phils have not been to the postseason since 2011. The additions of Castellanos and Schwarber will help the Phils try to keep up with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, both of whom added talent this winter. The Mets, in particular, added three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and center fielder Starling Marte, while the Braves replaced Freddie Freeman with Matt Olson, an All-Star and Gold Glover.

In terms of lineup possibilities, the Phils, weak in the leadoff spot a year ago, could use the lefty-hitting Schwarber in that spot against right-handed pitching. Castellanos, a right-handed bat, could hit in the fourth spot, behind Harper, with Hoskins and Realmuto in the middle, as well. The lineup will sort itself out as the season unfolds. For now, what matters is the Phillies’ lineup is a lot more formidable today than it was a week ago.