Not so long ago Andy LaRoche was considered one of the elite prospects in baseball.
He ranked among Baseball America‘s top 20 in both 2006 and 2007, placed in BA‘s top 100 for two other years as well, and was arguably the centerpiece of the package Pittsburgh received when trading Jason Bay in mid-2008.
Last week the Pirates dropped LaRoche from the 40-man roster and today the 26-year-old third baseman passed through waivers unclaimed to become a free agent.
In other words, none of the 30 teams felt his upside warranted a spot on the 40-man roster.
And it’s tough to blame them. LaRoche posted very strong numbers in the minors and the Pirates gave him plenty of chances to establish himself, including 142 starts in 2009, but he’s hit just .224 with a .304 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage in 1,228 plate appearances as a major leaguer.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”
The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.
Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.