Over the last couple of days, it has become clear that the Boston Red Sox are front runners for Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. The Red Sox have been rather demure in regards to the foreign market these past few years and it looks like they don’t want to miss out on Castillo.
Cuba is rife with baseball talent and lucky for us in the states, some of them have decided to leave for the MLB. The past several years, we have been especially blessed with star players that have just begun establishing themselves in the big leagues. Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, Aroldis Chapman, and one of the newest Red Sox, Yoenis Cespedes, all possess elite skills. Rusney Castillo may not be that caliber of a player, but is he the next tier down?
At 27-years-old, Castillo may not have a ton of untapped potential, but he probably doesn’t need much time to transition either. All the players listed above are also impressive because of the ease with which they transferred their abilities to American baseball. If Castillo does sign with Boston, they most likely wouldn’t need to deal with the learning curve that they are currently experiencing with several of their younger players.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was supposed to be the center fielder of the future for the Red Sox. A solid hitter in the minor leagues and an innate talent in the outfield, Bradley appeared ready to handle the job. However, Bradley was sent down on Monday in what could have been a premeditated move. Bradley’s troubles were purely hitting related, but he had just gone 5-16 in his previous five games with two walks. After going 2-3 on Sunday with a walk, Bradley must have been surprised to get the call back down to Pawtucket. The Castillo rumors along with his demotion are not a good sign for the young Bradley, who may need to start looking for a home elsewhere.
With Castillo coming to an MLB team, it is only natural that he is compared to an MLB player. Last night on Olbermann, Tim Kurkjian said, “I don’t think he’s Cespedes, I know he’s not Yasiel Puig. People have told me he’s closer to Rajai Davis.” Kurkjian also said that Boston was the top contender, with Detroit on the outside. Detroit is currently the home of Rajai Davis. Davis, who Sox fans became familiar with while he was with Toronto, is a speedster that can hit for decent average. That’s about it. Despite his elite speed, Davis is not a great outfielder, which is apparently the case with Castillo. Kurkjian said that defense is not his strength and it is still unclear on whether Castillo could even play center field in the majors. The scariest tidbit from Kurkjian was what he heard from a scout who has watched Castillo. “He’s not going to be a difference maker down the stretch for a team.” Of course the Red Sox don’t need a difference maker down the stretch, but they do need difference makers for next year.
The stout Cuban, who stands at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, isn’t going to win any MVPs. He may not even be an all-star. He does seem to be a solid major league ballplayer though, which can never hurt. Like Cespedes, he could be an attractive trade chip to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton. With Miami’s large Cuban population, Cespedes or Castillo could attract fans and help the ballclub.
One last bit of information to note is that with the possible addition of Castillo, the Red Sox will have eight outfielders looking for spots on the team next year. Eight! Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Mookie Betts, Cespedes, Bradley, and Castillo. Holt can of course play anywhere, but the rest will be fighting for four or possibly five roster spots unless a trade is made. That may be a problem to look at later, but the problem right now is the Red Sox haven’t spent enough money and that can be changed by signing Castillo. They lost out on Jose Abreu by only a few million dollars and that less than brazen effort makes the front office look bad, not to mention stupid. A few bad contracts appears to have scared the Red Sox from signing any notable contracts. The bidding war for Castillo appears to be in the $50 million dollar range and it’s time for John Henry and company to pay up.