Ask Hal: Will Nick Castellanos opt out of contract, or stay with Reds?

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: Can we anticipate that the commissioner and rules committee make rules changes to encourage more small ball? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: To the contrary, the commissioner/rules committee enourage big ball. They seem to love the home runs/walks/strikeouts game we see these days. What could they do to advance small ball? Make it mandatory to hit the other way against the shift? Make it a rule that a player must bunt with a runner on first and less than two outs? Require a runner on first to attempt a steal of second base at least once? Require a batter to choke up on the bat with two strikes? Not gonna happen.

Q: Do you expect Nick Castellanos to opt out of his contract for next season? — RON, Vandalia.

A: That’s something only he and his agent know. Castellanos is signed through 2024, but a clause in his contract says he can opt out after this season. He is set to make $16 million next year, no matter where he plays. Does he like it in Cincinnati? He says he does. But what if a better team comes calling? This one is the old wait-and-see. He hasn’t had the best of years and that could determine what he does.

Q: Why don’t teams have to forfeit games that they won’t be able to play this year, like the St. Louis Cardinals? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: That would be totally unfair. The Cardinals, due to no fault of their own, were forced to miss 17 games due to the Covid-19 pandemic. How can they penalize them for that. They were penalized enough by being forced to play a slew of doubleheaders, which has ravaged their pitching staff. You can hate the Redbirds all you want, but there has to be some sympathy involved.

Q: Why didn’t the Reds re-sign shortstop Jose Iglesias for 2020 after his outstanding 2019 season? — JIM, West Carrolton.

A: That remains The Great Mystery. The Reds picked up Freddy Galvis, assuming his offense would be better and his defense passable. It hasn’t happened. Iglesias is with the Baltimore Orioles and is having a bizarre season. He is hitting .377, with an OPS of .700. The OPS number is unbelievable because he has only one home run and three walks the entire season. Iglesias is hitting 120 points higher than anybody on the Reds roster. If I was in the Reds front office I would have brought him back. They didn’t ask me.

Q: How could the Reds win as many games as they have with the low batting averages they have? — RON, Germantown.

A: Former Reds general manager Jim Bowden had a large sign in his office that said, “Pitching, Pitching, Pitching.” And that’s the answer to your question. The team has had outstanding starting pitching. With any kind of good hitting and run-producing, they could easily have won the National League Central. But, as of this writing, the team was hitting .213, 14 points below their worst ever, .227 in 1908 during the dead ball era. And they are hitting this year as if using dead balls.

Q: With Coach Computer at the wheel of MLB teams these days, how soon before we see a defense where a player is in foul territory or even in the seats? — MARK, Miamisburg.

A: As a former coach and manager, you know that the rules say all defensive players except the catcher must stand in fair territory. Of course, that could be another absurd rule changed by the current MLB regime. I once asked Ken Griffey Jr., about hitting into the shift and he said, “I do it because they can’t put a defender in the right field seats.” Hey, with no fans in the stands, it might be fun to see Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez standing in the seats behind the third base dugout.

Q: Did Marty Brennaman once interview pro wrestler Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage in the booth and did it cause him a problem? — BOB, Dayton.

A: Brennaman had a pro wresting shrine in the booth with posters and memorabilia. Yes, he interviewed The Macho Man, which should have been OK because The Macho Man’s real name is Randy Poffo and he once played in the Reds minor league system. But he showed up for the interview in his Macho Man costume. Reds owner Marge Savage went ballistic and ordered all the wresting memorabilia removed from the booth, “And no more pro ‘rasslers’ in the booth.” Marge probably could have pinned The Macho Man.

Q: Is the Velcro supplied to MLB players defective because why else would hitters fix their batting gloves between every pitch? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Township.

A: There is nothing wrong with the Velcro. MLB implemented a rule a few years ago that batters should remain in the batter’s box between pitches. It isn’t enforced. That enables some players to continue their superstitious ritual of stepping out and unwrapping and rewrapping their batting gloves. And of course they also have to make certain their batting helmet is on straight, their protect cup is in place and their belt buckle is hooked. Sean Casey used to do them all ... and then some.

Q: Even though you despise the concept, how has the designated hitter produced for the Reds this season? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: When Jesse Winker was scorching hot, it worked well. Other than that, not so much, even though the front office said this year’s team was built for the DH. What it has done has permitted manager David Bell to give different players partial rest by spreading around the DH duties. And, yes, it will be kept in the National League next year and forevermore.

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