'A conversation that needs to be had': Castellanos wants to remain a Tiger through rebuild

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — In his heart, in his words, in his deeds, Nick Castellanos is making it clear he wants to be here through the rebuild — he wants to be one of the pillars, one of the foundation pieces for the Tigers' next run at a championship.

“I want to celebrate the environment that I’ve had from the beginning,” Castellanos said before the game Saturday. “I’m not one to start pointing fingers or blaming the losing on other reasons. My character is one not to take the easy way out.”

Castellanos, in his age 26 season, is in full bloom physically and emotionally. Miguel Cabrera is still the face of the franchise, but Castellanos has emerged as the active leader on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community.

He has made the fans seated in right field at Comerica Park his own personal audience — interacting with them throughout the games. He and Shane Greene have developed a podcast — they are calling it 619, a combination of their jersey numbers — which they hope will be distributed by Apple and by MLB.com.

“It’s just to give the fans a different perspective about us as the people we are, instead of just numbers we wear on our uniforms,” Castellanos said. “It’s going to be good; not just for the team, but for the fans and for the city.

“It takes a village to win a World Series, man, not just 25 guys. It takes a city.”

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And he’s playing the best baseball of his career. His .339 batting average is second in the American League. His .532 slugging percentage and .914 OPS are ninth. He has 23 multiple-hit games, fourth-most in the league, and a league-high 11 three-hit games.

So what are we talking about? Of course, he’s a foundation piece, right?

The hard truth is, Castellanos presents somewhat of a dilemma for general manager Al Avila. Yes, he would love for him to be one of the pillars of the rebuild and one of the leaders of the contending teams that come after.

But, if trading him can bring a big batch of prospects and hasten the process — and that’s what it would take for Avila to trade him — then he’d have to consider it.

“That stuff is kind of out of my area code,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But Al made it clear to me when I took this job what was going to happen around here. We were going to get younger and if (Castellanos) is a chip that can bring back multiple, multiple pieces, then, yes.

“But he is a young player here. We can build around him. Al knows that, too. So he’s not just going to dangle him out there and throw him away.”

Castellanos may decide to get proactive and have a discussion with Avila himself.

“It’s a conversation that needs to be had,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything. There were rumors that I turned down an extension this offseason. If anybody else knows the details of that extension, let me know because I didn’t know about it.”

Avila had mentioned during the winter meetings that the club had discussed, internally, the idea of offering Castellanos a contract extension. One was never formally offered.

“It’s a conversation that needs to be had if they see me, and I hope they do, as a piece that would be here long-term,” Castellanos said.

He’s willing to grind through the rough seasons and provide leadership to the younger players because the light he sees at the end of the tunnel isn’t that far off.

“Al Kaline played in over 2,000 games before he saw his first postseason game,” he said. “That should give people perspective that it takes time. He played 20 seasons and he won one World Series and he’s got a statue out there and he’s Mr. Tiger.

“I’m not putting myself in the same category as Al Kaline, but I’ve been to the postseason and I know what it’s like as a 22-year-old.”

Castellanos and Greene have created the podcast in part so they can control the questions, they can control the message and how they are portrayed to the public. He knows he doesn’t have the same control over whether he can stay in Detroit for the rest of his career like Kaline did.

“The only thing I can control is that I am in this clubhouse right now,” he said. “I want to go about my business the way I want to, the same way as if I was a 20-year vet. Just take it day by day and try to be the best person that I can be on and off the field.

“If they view this person as somebody they want to keep long-term, so be it. If I am a piece of the puzzle that needs to be moved to bring in future talent, then so be it.”

You already know what his heart wants.