By Teddy Brenner
In case you hadn’t noticed, new Phillie Nick Castellanos has already won the hearts of Philly’s blue-collar fans with this quote:
“I don’t have have a college degree, I hit baseballs.”
He said that yesterday at his rollout presser.
And then he fielded grounders at third base.
“Whatever the team needs, I have a Phillie hat on,” Castellanos said Wednesday.
“Our plans are to play him in left and right and DH,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He still likes to take groundballs so he will do that. That’s part of his routine. My eyes will be open when he’s there.”
Castellanos got a $100 million, five-year contract from the Phillies after a career season in Cincinnati. He batted .309 with 34 homers, 100 RBIs and a .939 OPS last year for the Reds, making his first All-Star team and winning a Silver Slugger Award. He is a .278 career hitter with 168 home runs, 594 RBIs and an .814 OPS in nine major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubsand Reds.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and agent Scott Boras raved about Castellanos’ work ethic and his desire to improve.
How much better can he be?
“I guess we’ll find out, right?” Castellanos said.
Dombrowski was president and general manager of the Tigers when they drafted Castellanos in 2010 and he debuted with Detroit in 2013. After the Phillies added slugger Kyle Schwarber last week and Castellanos was still available, Dombrowski convinced ownership to surpass the luxury tax threshold to sign him.
“I know how good a player he is and how good a hitter he is and what he brings to a team,” Dombrowski said. “He’s one of the premier hitters in baseball. He brings more than just a bat to the lineup. With his determination, winning atmosphere, chemistry that he brings to the clubhouse, he’s a championship type of individual.”
Phillies managing partner John Middleton didn’t hesitate to sign the check.
“It was a short conversation,” Middleton said. “I started to interrupt him because I knew where it was going and I was fine with it.”
Castellanos and Schwarber join reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper in the middle of a Phillies lineup that also features All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius.
The Phillies are counting on their offense to help them snap an NL-worst, 10-year postseason drought.
“I’ve played over 1,000 big league games and I have zero playoff wins,” Castellanos said. “I’ve made money, I’ve hit homers, I’ve played on TV, but I haven’t won any games that matter. I would like to do that.”
Harper pushed the Phillies to make the deal happen. Boras, who negotiated a $330 million, 13-year deal for Harper to join Philadelphia in 2019, joked that the two-time NL MVP called him four times a day to help make Castellanos his teammate.
“He’s really built for an audience like this,” Boras said. “I think what everybody in Philadelphia will come to understand is there’s no nonsense with Nick. It’s, ‘I’ve got to win, I want to win, I’ve never won, I’m going to win.’ That’s kind of his attitude.”