The workouts and rumors and sweepstakes are over, and Boston has come out on top.
The Red Sox have agreed to a six year (seven, if you include the remainder of the 2014 season), 72 million dollar deal with 27 year old Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, according to multiple reports. The contract is the largest ever given to a Cuban player, topping the 68 million dollars the White Sox dolled out to Jose Abreu last offseason.
Castillo is a fleet-footed centerfielder with a line drive swing that yielded a .315 average in the Cuban Series Nacional from 2011 to 2013. Originally thought to only possess gap power, the 5’9 Castillo put on 20 pounds of muscle – he now weighs in at 205 – before his most recent showcase, and, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, subsequently displayed plus raw power in batting practice. The question is whether or not that power will translate onto a major league diamond, particularly given his lack of plate discipline and his tendency to elongate his swing. Despite his record contract, Castillo is not considered to offer the type of superstar potential shown by recent defectors Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig.
Boston is the winner of a bidding war that has gone on since early August and has possibly included at some point or another the Yankees, Phillies, Giants, Reds, Mariners and Cubs, with the Tigers and Red Sox emerging as favorites in the last 24 hours.
There was speculation that if Castillo signed with a contending club like Detroit, that the team could put him on the major league roster as soon as September 1st. Even though Boston is not in a pennant race, expect to see Castillo when rosters expand, as the Triple-A season ends on September 1 and the Red Sox will want to get as long a look at their expensive new prospect as possible. Service time is not a consideration; Per Castillo’s contract, he will be a free agent after 2020 regardless of how much time he spends in the majors.
This just adds to an already crowded Boston outfield that already Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava and Yoenis Cespedes vying for playing time. Someone will be traded in the offseason, the only question is who.