In a move that required a record amount of money towards a free agent who’s yet to see a pitch in MLB, the Boston Red Sox continued to re-shape their offense moving forward by inking Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.
Castillo, who was born in Ciego de Avila, is a 5-foot-9, 205 pound outfielder. He is described by scouts as a four-tool player: he has blazing speed, an above-average glove, a rifle for an arm, and the ability to hit the ball in the gap more so than out of the park. His not-so-former teammate in Cuba, Yoenis Cespedes, compared him to a smaller Yasiel Puig, while Jayson Starks of ESPN.com spoke with an evaluator who compared him more to the likes of Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
His last season with the team in Ciego de Avila came in 2012-2013 where he hit .274 with 29 RBI’s and 15 stolen bases in just 68 games. Certainly not numbers that make you want to throw $72.5 million at him, but his track record proved this to be a down year because in 2010-2011 he posted a slash of .320/.369/.553, and topped that in 2011-2012 with a .342/.408/.574 line.
During the Baseball World Cup in Panama in 2011, Castillo was the starting center fielder due to the absence of Cespedes and Leonys Martin (whom had both already defected) for the Cuban National team and hit .512 over the span of ten games. After unsuccessfully trying to defect in his first attempt, he was left off the team for the World Baseball Classic before succeeding in his second attempt in December 2013.
If you weren’t already aware, defecting from Cuba is extremely dangerous, so for Castillo to have made it out safely is a wonderful thing. I remember reading about Puig’s journey and just thinking about how much more these players actually have to deal with just to simply get out of Cuba to play a kid’s game. Meanwhile, we sit back and criticize them for not driving in enough runs. But that’s just life I suppose.
Here’s an excerpt from Puig’s story by Scott Eden:
Within a few months, though, the threats began anew. During Dodgers spring training camp in 2013, according to a source close to Raul Pacheco, at least one man representing Tomasito’s ring showed up in Arizona, found the rookie’s hotel room, knocked on his door, and told Yasiel Puig the boss wanted his money.
I’m sure Castillo will have his own debts to pay as well, but having Cespedes around as sort of a guide should help him adjust tremendously.
As it stands, we probably won’t get to see Castillo play until sometime in September. An already crowded outfield for Boston keeps growing, but with Jackie Bradley Jr demoted back to Pawtucket and no clear-cut center fielder on the current roster, it could be Castillo’s job to lose for 2015.
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