Phillies flip-flop, no longer dangling star outfielder as trade bait?

After news broke that Nick Castellanos was on the trade block, a conflicting report has emerged.
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies - NLDS Game 4
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies - NLDS Game 4 / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

On Thursday, news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies were open to trading right fielder Nick Castellanos, according to Mark Feinsand of

Fast-forward to Friday afternoon, and Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Phillies are not looking to trade the outfielder and instead view him as a key part of the team's future:

As Feinsand noted in his initial report, one of the contributing factors to the rumor is the lack of discipline Castellanos showed at the plate, noting that the outfielder "ranked in the bottom 2% of the league in chase percentage, the bottom 5% in whiff percentage and the bottom 12% in walk rate."

In 2023, the 31-year-old slashed .272/.311/.476 with 29 home runs, a career-high 106 RBI, 36 walks, and 185 strikeouts in 157 games. In the regular season, he had a strikeout rate of 27.6%, the second-highest mark of his 11-year MLB career.

Without a doubt, the season was a streaky one for Castellanos.

It's no secret Castellanos struggled during his first season in Philadelphia in 2022, putting up a line of .263/.305/.389 with 13 home runs and 62 RBI in 136 games, but there were signs of improvement early in 2023. In the first half, he helped to carry the team, putting up a .301/.344/.796 line with 13 home runs, 55 RBI, 24 walks, and 97 strikeouts in 372 plate appearances.

He also made the All-Star Game as the lone position player to represent the Phillies.

Around the All-Star break, the outfielder struggled, hitting .162/.194/.303 in July before settling in on his way to slashing .235/.271/.452 with 16 home runs, 51 RBI, 12 walks, and 88 strikeouts in 299 plate appearances to finish the regular season. As he lost control of the strike zone, though, he also found himself grounding into more double plays, going from five in the first half of the season to 12 in the second half.

The streakiness lasted into the playoffs.

In the National League Wild Card Series against the Miami Marlins, he hit .250 with no RBI and two strikeouts in two games. In the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, he came alive, slashing .467/.529/1.267 with four home runs, four RBI, two walks, and only one strikeout in four games.

Facing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Championship Series, the wheels fell off. Castellanos put up a .042/.111/.167 line in seven games with one home run, two RBI, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. After going 1-for-4 in Game 1, he was hitless in the next six games, going 0-for-20 as the Phillies lost the series.

Offense aside, though, his defense came through yet again in 2023. He put up zero errors and 10 outfield assists in the regular season, keeping announcers and fans on the edge of their seats with his playmaking ability.

Castellanos still has three years and $60 million left on his contract and has finally found his comfort level with the fans and media of Philadelphia after his tough first year, letting his personality shine and endearing himself to fans.

With the Phillies' decision to keep Bryce Harper at first base to move Kyle Schwarber to the role of designated hitter and the belief that Johan Rojas could start the season in the minors to work on his offense, the team might already be looking to fill at least one hole in the outfield. While the team could be doing some backtracking after the initial trade rumor leaked in the event a move doesn't happen, it's also likely the Phillies are prioritizing other positions in the offseason, particularly the starting rotation and bullpen.

Castellanos needs to work on patience at the plate, but he showed that he's capable of doing that for stretches of the season. If he can find consistency on offense, he can continue to be a key member of this Phillies team as it looks to get back to the postseason yet again in 2024.

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