The Detroit Tigers might finally dip their hand into the waters and pull a Cuban ballplayer to the Motor City. Recent and prolific successes gained by defectors Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Jose Abreu have drawn attention to one man – Rusney Castillo.
Castillo last played in Cuba in 2012. He’s a 27-year-old stocky outfielder, standing just 5’9’’ but weighing a shade over 200 pounds. He has above average speed and mostly played center and right field while in Cuba. The Yankees, one of six teams including the Tigers thought to be among the finalists, think enough of his athleticism that they are also considering him as a second baseman.
As for the Tigers, they would clearly target him as an outfielder and perhaps one that could help right away. However, Castillo has some work visa issues to clear before he can suit up for a big league team. In order to qualify for the playoffs he would have to be cleared prior to September 1st so the race is clearly on here. And a fierce bidding war is already in the home stretch.
Detroit and New York have been joined by Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston and the Chicago Cubs as the perceived finalists for Castillo’s signature. In order to get his ink on the bottom line offers are expected to range in the 5-6 year window and anywhere from $35-50M in total salary.
The Tigers just dealt long-time centerfielder Austin Jackson away at the trade deadline and are scuffling along with the adequate Rajai Davis manning a below average defensive outfield. Castillo isn’t the next Jim Edmonds in centerfield but is a likely upgrade from the current cast of characters.
The Tigers, Yankees, and Mariners are all clinging to playoff hopes at this point in the season but the thought of Castillo paying immediate dividends seem premature. Look how badly seasoned major leaguers can struggle after just sitting out an offseason. Castillo hasn’t suited up in game action since 2012. Any instant impact would be the equivalent of hitting a mini jackpot as Castillo is more likely to be a major contributor in 2015.
Does that mean the Tigers shouldn’t chase him? Definitely not. Jackson is gone and Torii Hunter, a free agent to be, shouldn’t be far behind him in the offseason. That leaves Rajai Davis with one year left on his 2-year deal, J.D. Martinez, and Andy Dirks in next year’s outfield? Yeah, that’s not going to work.
The farm system isn’t sending any big name outfield prospects up anytime soon either. Short of signing a Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz-type free agent during the winter the Tigers are going to need to shake things up.
Castillo could be that guy. Teams across the league are gaining confidence in the ability of the often times mysterious talents of Cuban ballplayers. They play in weak leagues against substandard competition, yet put up gaudy numbers. How does it translate? See Cespedes, Puig, Abreu…
Castillo isn’t slotted into the same category of slugger as his predecessors but his talents are obvious. During his Cuban career, spanning 360 games, or about two and a half seasons of a major league schedule, he hit .319 with a .383 on-base percentage while swatting 51 homers and stealing 76 bases. He reportedly hit several tape measure shots during his preview for MLB scouts down in Miami recently as he has added substantial muscle to his frame during his down time.
It’s not often that in the latter stages of August an MLB team has the potential to add a player who might help now and will certainly help next year at a relatively reasonable price.
And as we know about GM Dave Dombrowski, he almost always gets his man. The competition on Castillo is clearly intense but if Dombrowski has his sights set on the Cuban outfielder, you can practically book it.
To receive an email each time a new Tigers article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form
[Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]