Baltimore will be without starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to begin the season, as the Orioles announced that he’s been shut down for at least 10 days with a strained left shoulder.
Hardy has struggled with injuries for much of his career, but played 141, 159, and 158 games for the Orioles during the past three seasons. Last year he hit just nine homers to snap a streak of 20 or more three years in a row, but won another Gold Glove award and then inked a three-year, $40 million contract extension in October.
Everth Cabrera, who was the Padres’ starting shortstop for most of the past three seasons, looks likely to fill in for Hardy.
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.