07 March 2012
Yesterday morning, as I was surfing around for Tigers chatter, the following tweet came across my timeline from Mark Anderson of TigsTown.com:
I was actually floored that there are folks out there who are clamoring for Castellanos to move positions right away! It’s true that Castellanos is in Major League camp right now, but, as Anderson points out, he’s still likely to spend two full seasons in the minor leagues before joining the Tigers. Being “blocked” by Cabrera shouldn’t factor into an organizational decision at this point in time.Scouts have wondered all along whether or not Castellanos would be able to handle third base defensively at the major league level (and the jury is still out on this). If the answer ends up as a ‘no’, then the likely move would be to a corner outfield spot. So, the idea of Nick switching positions isn’t a new one, but the Tigers organization should hold out as long as possible before deciding to make that switch official. Five reasons:
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Corner outfield isn’t a hard position to learn
Perhaps I’m overlooking a great deal of nuance here, but I’ve always operated under the impression that corner outfield wasn’t particularly difficult to defend. It’s a place that terrible defenders go to hide. There’s no reason Castellanos would need two seasons to learn the position. If push comes to shove, one spring should be sufficient. It’s easy to go from third to the outfield, but it would be darn near impossible to take a couple of years off from third and then try to play there one day in the big leagues.
Miguel Cabrera isn’t young anymore
Or, at least, he won’t be in two years. Cabby will be staring his age 31 season in the face come 2014, and you have to wonder what type of defense he would be able to provide at the hot corner. We’re having the debate if he’ll be able to stick while still in his 20’s. How far into his 30’s could we expect him to be able to defend third base? With Castellanos, the thinking can’t be about one or even two years – it’s about where he’ll be for hopefully five to seven years.
Victor Martinez won’t be around forever
This point goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Victor is signed through the 2014 season, and the DH position will be wide open after that. At that time, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will be on the wrong side of 30, heading into the years of expected steep defensive decline. I’m sure neither one would love to be a full time DH, but if they split time there (with the other playing first), then third base would be wide open. The only issue here would be about what to do in that single year of 2014, when hopefully Castellanos is ready to play in the big leagues, but first base, third base, and DH are all spoken for. I don’t really have an answer for that right now, but as I said before, the thinking here can’t be about the short term.
Castellanos carries more trade value as a third baseman
It’s not impossible that Castellanos gets traded before reaching the big leagues with the Tigers. Heaven knows that Dave Dombrowski is not shy about dealing a top prospect if he feels the price is right. Most teams have corner outfield prospects that can hit in their farm system, but a young, elite-hitting third baseman is hard to find. Moving Nick away from third base would be a significant hit to his value as a trade chip.
A lot can happen in two years
It’s not fun to think about, but pretty much anything could happen in a two year span. A terrible accident, an illness, an injury, or any number things could occur that would take Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera out of the lineup. This isn’t a likely scenario, and it’s one that we all hope never happens, but it would serve the club well to have the extra insurance policy of Castellanos just in case.
If Nick Castellanos would ready to break camp and head north with the team, then yes, find a new position for him, but he’s really no where close. The team is right to take things one year at a time.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.