Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos had a pretty notable 2021 season. Now he may get some hardware for it.
Castellanos is one of seven National League finalists for Major League Baseball's Hank Aaron Award, which honors the player with the strongest offensive season in each league through home runs and RBIs. The award is named for baseball legend Aaron, who widely is considered one of the greatest players in history and who smashed 755 home runs during his 23 seasons in the majors. Aaron passed away in January.
Originally introduced in 1999 as an award based on stats, the Hank Aaron Award winners now are decided by broadcasters, analysts and fans.
Castellanos was a bright spot in a season that ended with heartbreak, when the Reds were mathematically eliminated from postseason play on Sept. 28. An email from the Cincinnati Reds touts his credentials for the Hank Aaron Award:
In his second season with the Reds, Castellanos had the finest season of his big-league career, including his first All-Star selection. Castellanos finished third in the NL in slugging percentage (.576), tied for third in extra-base hits (73), fourth in batting average (.309), sixth in RBIs (100) and tied for seventh in home runs (34). This season marked career-bests for Castellanos in home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while finishing just one RBI shy of his previous high in that category.
Fans may or may not see Castellanos in Cincinnati next year, as the outfielder has a player option, giving him the opportunity to take his skills elsewhere this winter. The option is worth $16 million in 2022 and the same for 2023, should Castellanos remain with the Reds under his current contract. But ESPN's Buster Olney reported Tuesday that the qualifying offer for free agents has been set at $18.4 million.
If the Reds were to offer that to Castellanos and the outfielder turned it down, the team could end up with a decent draft pick, depending on where Castellanos ultimately ended up. With Castellanos' fantastic season, he may be able to command more money from other teams or even from the Reds, themselves.
During the season, Castellanos' son Liam became internet-famous after designing a shirt that featured a drawing of his hard-hitting dad. The seven-year-old drew Castellanos in his Reds uniform and slapped it onto a shirt for the outfielder's birthday. Fans fell in love with it -- and with Liam -- and Liam soon teamed up with Cincy Shirts and the MLB Players' Association to sell the design and donate proceeds to charity.
Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.