Will the Red Sox give their curious signing from several years ago another shot this season?
Back in 2014, Boston signed outfielder Rusney Castillo to a 7-year / $72.5 million dollar contract. At the time, Cuban players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig were in the midst of breaking out in the MLB. The Red Sox added an albatross contract instead of an impact player. Boston needs to be more careful of where their funds are going.
Here is an excerpt from Baseball America on him, which Boston was privy to prior to signing: “Some scouts who had followed Castillo with the Cuban national team felt he would be a steady, everyday center fielder in the big leagues, while others felt he would fit best as a fourth outfielder, with good speed and defense in center field, a line-drive stroke, an aggressive hitting approach and occasional power.”
Well, they were partly right. He has been used as a fourth outfielder at some points, but a guy that’s owed over $10.5 million a year is a ton for a spare outfielder.
Here is what BA said about his bat: “Castillo always had good bat speed and could sting the ball with a line-drive approach in Cuba, but on Saturday he hit balls out to all fields, displaying plus raw power in BP. Several scouts felt Castillo took a home run derby mentality with him into his BP session instead of his standard game swing, but it worked to show some scouts they needed to adjust their grades on him.”
At times, Castillo has shown signs of pop. But his power numbers were down when facing big league pitching. The best he has hit in the big leagues is .253 over 289 plate appearances. Castillo didn’t/doesn’t look like worth the hefty investment that he was signed for.
Castillo is in limbo
Rusney Castillo has had a difficult time getting playing time in the MLB. His games in Boston were in 2016, in which he achieved just eight plate appearances. At the moment, the “killer B’s” are taking up space for the 30-year-old Cuban outfielder. Also, the Red Sox are still pursuing slugging J.D. Martinez. Many teams are wary of giving 30-plus-year-olds hefty contracts. An example would be Pablo Sandoval, a player with talent who cracked under the pressure.
So this team is sitting on its hands while waiting for an opportunity. Going into spring training, the club has some uncertainty moving into Opening Day. In the event that the team doesn’t get Martinez, they can utilize Castillo if he produces while in Florida. These will be the most important games for him, as this could be it for his chance of an MLB roster spot.
The outfielder is holding his own in the winter leagues, batting .275 in 40 at bats. He looks to continue that giving him momentum heading to Fort Myers. The Red Sox are lacking in the offensive department, so this would be a nice boost to augment the lineup. Castillo has seemed like the forgotten man and has a chance to become relevant again.
Finally, this past season, the Cuban import hit .314 with 15 home runs with 43 RBIs in 369 PAs at Triple-A. That’s much better and shows just what he could be in the big leagues. He also stole 14 bags. It’s a nice snapshot and a 20-20 season in Boston doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. The problem is that he is blocked in the outfield.
Going into 2018, the Red Sox invited him to spring training. No one is saying that he is the answer to the offensive problem, because he definitely isn’t. But it shows that Castillo has a decent chance at making the ball club. The guy is getting paid a lot of money to be sitting in the minors. There is an opt out available after the 2019 season for Boston’s sake.
Boston can still salvage something out of this awkward signing. He hasn’t done much at the major league level, though his 2017 production may be a turn in the right direction. He would be a nice depth option in the outfield. At 30, he looks to be a late bloomer in this league. The Red Sox will be watching him closely in spring training. As of right now, the contract feels like a Carl Crawford 2.0.