Keeping Nick Castellanos in Cincinnati will first require the Reds to let Tucker Barnhart walk

Nick Castellanos of the Cincinnati Reds.
Nick Castellanos of the Cincinnati Reds. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds have a looming problem ahead of them this winter before the 2022 season even begins. How can the Reds keep Nick Castellanos in Cincinnati?

Castellanos has the ability to opt out of his current deal and forgo the remaining two years and $32M. Fans and analysts around baseball believe Castellanos will opt out and become a free agent.

If that is the case, the Reds need to do all they can to keep the 29-year-old in Cincinnati long-term. How could the front office swing such a deal?

The Reds need to find a way to keep Nick Castellanos.

What if the Reds don't retain Tucker Barnhart and use the money owed to him to help keep Castellanos in the Queen City?

Two-time Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart and last year's rookie Tyler Stephenson are both under team control next season.

Barnhart had a relatively down year at the dish, hitting just .247/.317/.368 while collecting seven home runs and 48 RBIs.

Barnhart has a $7.5M club-option for next season that includes a $500K buyout according to Spotrac. Offloading Barnhart's contract and handing the keys to Stephenson would give the Reds more money to chase Castellanos in free agency.

Stephenson will make the league minimum and does not become eligible for arbitration until after the 2023 season. The Reds could select an inexpensive backup catcher via free agency or through a trade to slot behind Stephenson.

In the 2021 season, while playing in 132 games, Tyler Stephenson managed to smash 10 home runs and rack up 45 RBIs while slashing .286/.366/.431.

It's also worth mentioning that Stephenson accumulated 100 hits in 350 at-bats with 21 doubles and 41 walks. This young man can clearly hit and get on base when it's most needed.

Stephenson only struck out 75 times, which is low considering today's age of baseball where three true outcomes (strikeout, walk, or home run) are commonplace. The Reds need to let Stephenson take the reins behind the plate.

Barnhart took home $3.75M in 2021, while Castellanos accounted for $14M of the Reds payroll. Add those two figures together, and you're at least getting closer to the average annual value ($17.75M AAV) Castellanos could earn on the open market.

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The Cincinnati Reds need to keep Nick Castellanos, and in order to do so, they'll need to trim some of next year's payroll. Moving on from Tucker Barnhart and handing over catching duties to Tyler Stephenson is a good start.