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Nick Castellanos exercises opt-out clause in deal with Cincinnati Reds to become free agent, source confirms

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Cincinnati Reds star outfielder Nick Castellanos has exercised the opt-out clause in his contract and will become a free agent this offseason, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Castellanos informed the Reds of his decision Thursday, according to reports, opting out of the final two years and $34 million on his deal.

Castellanos had two opt-out clauses in his four-year, $64 million deal, but he did not exercise the first one after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Reds are expected to extend him the $18.4 qualifying offer, which would yield Cincinnati a compensatory 2022 draft pick after the first round if Castellanos signs with another team.

Castellanos’ decision comes one day after Reds general manager Nick Krall said the organization “must align our payroll to our resources and continue focusing on scouting and developing young talent from within our system.”

Krall told reporters that he expects the Reds, who had a $130 million payroll in 2021, to take a “wait-and-see” approach to free agency this offseason.

“I don’t think we’re not going to sign players on the free-agent market,” said Krall, who addressed the team’s offseason plan after Wednesday’s trade of veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers. “I think it’s something that this move did not make sense from where we were with payroll. We had to make sure we made the adjustment.”

Although he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding upcoming labor talks and a new collective bargaining agreement for Major League Baseball, Castellanos said last month that the 2021 season with the Reds was “the most consistent, happiest I’ve been playing baseball.”

Castellanos, 29, will enter free agency coming off one of the best seasons of his nine-year career. A first-time All-Star in 2021, he batted .309 with 34 home runs and a .939 OPS — all career bests — and also led the Reds with 100 RBIs.

A former first-round draft pick who spent the majority of his career with the Tigers, Castellanos will become one of the best hitters in a free-agent class that also includes former MVPs Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant, MLB stolen bases leader Starling Marte and star shortstops Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Marcus Semian and Javier Baez.

Castellanos is a career .278 hitter with 168 homers in parts of nine seasons with the Reds, Tigers and Cubs.

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What happens to Marcus Semien’s fantasy value in Texas?

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The first of the big-name free agent shortstops — or, in this case, second base, which was his primary position in 2021 — is off the board, as Marcus Semien reportedly agreed to sign with the Texas Rangers on Sunday, for a whopping seven years and $175 million.

Semien was the best in fantasy terms from that group, finishing fourth among shortstop-eligibles and third among second basemen in 2021. He’s also the oldest, having turned 31 years of age in September, so it’s curious to see a rebuilding team like the Rangers turn in his direction. It might be one of the few places where his chances of repeating what was a marvelous past season took a definitive hit.

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Kevin Gausman finds new home, agrees with Toronto Blue Jays on $110 million contract, sources say

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Right-handed starting pitcher Kevin Gausman and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Sunday night.

Gausman was a reliable back-end starter early in his career, posting a 4.22 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.02 strikeout-to-walk ratio while averaging 146 innings per season for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds from 2014 to 2019.

But his career truly took off upon joining the San Francisco Giants, who helped him fine-tune his splitter to form a devastating combination with his four-seam fastball.

Gausman, originally obtained on a one-year, $9 million contract, posted a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 59 2/3 innings during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The 30-year-old right-hander returned to the Giants after accepting the qualifying offer and was even better in 2021, combining a 2.81 ERA with 227 strikeouts and only 50 walks in 192 innings while anchoring the starting rotation for a team that won a major league-best 107 games.

Gausman made his first All-Star team that year, then finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting and became one of the most coveted free agents on the market.

Gausman could help fill a new hole in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Last week, Toronto lost starting pitcher Steven Matz, who posted a 14-7 record, with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts last season. The veteran agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

ESPN Staff Writer Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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MLB free-agency grades – Texas Rangers bet big on their future with Marcus Semien signing

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Raise your hand if, like me, you uttered something unprintable when you heard the reported terms of Marcus Semien‘s new contract and the team that had offered them. That’s what we call a knee-jerk reaction, which isn’t always rational or correct. Your real response is what you come up with after thinking through the factors involved. Often, then, you see a reason and a rhyme, even with surprising news.

For me, after thinking this deal through, I still think something mildly unprintable, but it’s a word that’s less severe than my knee-jerk phrase — and it comes with a slightly more positive connotation.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Semien and his representatives agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers. It’s the richest deal by far of this year’s free-agent season, matching the average annual value of Justin Verlander‘s deal with the Astros ($25 million) but for a half-decade longer.

In finding a new team, Semien becomes the second member of the long-anticipated shortstop free-agent class of 2021-22 to find a long-term home (the first being Francisco Lindor, who agreed to an extension with the Mets last season). Let’s consider that class with a few numbers from baseball-reference.com:

Here, it’s worth noting that Passan is also reporting that Semien is far from likely to be the last of the Rangers’ high-level free-agent targets, even among that shortstop class. Still, for now, we’ll look at how he fits as if he were the jewel of the Rangers’ winter push, and not just a jewel.



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