Aristides Aquino’s future with Reds hinges on Nick Castellanos’ decision

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 28: Aristides Aquino #44 of the Cincinnati Reds bats during the game against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 28: Aristides Aquino #44 of the Cincinnati Reds bats during the game against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

There’s not enough room on the Reds roster for Aristides Aquino and Nick Castellanos.

Aristides Aquino was optioned to the Cincinnati Reds alternate site following Game 2 of last night’s doubleheader. After signing Nick Castellanos to a four-year/$64M deal this past offseason, the Reds made their intentions known as it relates to who’s manning right field. A crowded Cincinnati outfield may not be able to hold both Castellanos and Aquino in 2021.

Following an unprecedented August from last year’s rookie Aristides Aquino, it looked as though the Reds had found their starting right fielder for 2020 and beyond. Aquino took home Player of the Month honors and was breaking MLB records at an amazing pace.

However, a quick downturn during last September threw some cold water on Aquino’s red-hot start. After hitting .320/.391/.767 with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs last August, Aquino limped to finish line, hitting just .196/.236/.382 with just five homers and 14 RBIs in September of 2019.

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Aristides Aquino didn’t help his standing with the team with his play in the Dominican Winter League. There, The Punisher hit just .209/.255/.395 in 47 at-bats. After the Reds signed Castellanos over the offseason, it was a virtual certainty that Aquino would begin his 2020 season at Triple-A Louisville.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic shutdown minor league baseball for 2020 and Aquino, along with several other promising young players, were forced to head up the road to Mason, Ohio and get in their work at Cincinnati’s alternate site.

While it’s about as good as Major League Baseball could do given the circumstances, the work being put in at Prasco Park is not the same as  the live action these players would receive during a minor league season.

Now, out of minor-league options, the Cincinnati Reds have a dilemma on their hands. After the Reds designated Phillip Ervin for assignment, it seemed as though the team might finally have room on the roster for Aquino. However, at the trade deadline, Cincinnati acquired outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Following Nick Senzel’s return from the injured list yesterday, it was apparent that Aristides Aquino’s time with the big league club was coming to an end. With Senzel acting as the 29th man in Monday’s doubleheader, the Reds had an outfield comprised of Aquino, Castellanos, Goodwin, Senzel, Shogo Akiyama and Jesse Winker.

Five outfielders are a lot, and six is too many. Sending Aquino to the alternate site was the only option for Dick Williams and Nick Krall. Akiyama has been the Reds best hitter of late and Goodwin has impressed, especially defensively, since coming over from Los Angeles. He also is out of minor league options. Not sending Winker to IL would make one believe his return is imminent.

So what does the future hold for Aristides Aquino? Well, a lot of that may depend on what Nick Castellanos decides to do this winter. Though Castellanos signed a four-year deal, his contract allows the slugger to opt out following both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Castellanos looked like an early-season MVP candidate, but his shine has diminished of late.

Nick Castellanos was 17-for-50 (.320) to begin his 2020 campaign, and the 28-year-old slugged seven homers, four doubles and 16 RBIs in his first 14 games of the season. However, the last 35 games have seen Castellanos hitting just .175/.261/.357 with just five home runs and 15 RBIs in 126 at-bats.

A lot of those struggles can be attributed to bad luck, but when it comes time to entertain the idea of entering free agency, Castellanos and his agent, Scott Boras, will have to take everything into consideration. Will Castellanos, on the open market, be able to sign for more than the $14M he’ll make with the Reds in 2021?

Before you answer that, let’s take into consideration that baseball revenues will be down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. With no fans in the stands, team’s are not going to make the same money they typically do, and one way to offset those losses will be to spend less in free agency. Castellanos struggled to find a contract to his liking last winter.

Next. Reds fans should be cautiously optimistic

Barring a trade, which is always a possibility, it appears as though the Cincinnati Reds will enter the offseason with an overflowing outfield once again. If Castellanos opts out of his current contract, I think the Reds will be content to enter 2021 with Aquino vying for time as the team’s starting right fielder. If Castellanos is still on the Reds come this winter, all bets are off.