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After losing out on the Jose Abreu sweepstakes and then plummeting to last in the American League East, the Red Sox and their fans needed the acquisition of Rusney Castillo simply for morale’s sake. With Victorino’s injuries and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s sudden inability to hit a baseball, the Red Sox’s outfield grew desperate for reinforcements and Rusney Castillo presented himself as the perfect answer.
The 27-year-old Cuban center fielder, inked for 7 years for $72.5 million, is a bit of an enigma when you look into his game, especially when comparing him to the likes of fellow-Roc Sports Nation player, Yasiel Puig, or fellow-Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Of the Cuban outfielder trio, Yasiel Puig is the freak athlete, capable of excelling in all five major facets of the game, while Cespedes is the archetypal power-hitting left fielder. While Puig and Cespedes are 3 and 4 hitters, Castillo is marketed as a leadoff hitter, with his base-stealing ability and line drive producing swing. So once Castillo makes his entrance into the starting lineup, a lineup with Castillo at leadoff, Pedroia batting second, followed by Puig, Ortiz and Napoli, is actually pretty formidable with all of that firepower. Ideally, Castillo can fill the massive void in centerfield left by Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure.
Returning to the basics, Castillo is a 27-year-old right-handed hitter, listed at only 5’9” and just over 200 lbs. He’s a stocky guy, yet, don’t let that fool with you because he’s got some serious speed, matched with his deceiving frame and smart baserunning skills, Castillo will surely keep right handed pitchers checking their six o’clock when he gets on first.
After the signing, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington expressed confidence, saying “He runs well, has a good solid average throwing arm, good power, can play strong defense, and has a good offensive track record in Cuba and international play”. Well, Ben what’s the catch?
So far, as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Castillo has said all the right things. The only issue and perhaps major concern is the mere fact that he has not played organized baseball in a year and a half. In addition, Castillo did not make the cut for the 2013 Cuban World Baseball Classic team, primarily due to the fact that he made an unsuccessful attempt to defect from Cuba at that time.
Despite these concerns, Castillo has remained positive and has assured Red Sox Nation that his departure from Cuban baseball has not left his skills rusty, stating that he has trained nearly every day since then in his temporary home of Miami, Florida. There he has impressed Red Sox VP of player personnel, Allen Baird, where he’s staged several workouts for him and other major league scouts.
As mentioned previously, Castillo, along with Los Angeles Dodgers star, Yasiel Puig, is signed with Roc Sports Nations, which is Jay-Z’s sports agency. The deal Roc Sports Nation and Cherington agreed upon, makes Castillo the longest tenured Cuban in Major League Sports history. While the contract is for less money than Puig, the length of the contract allows Castillo and the young Red Sox team to mature together, and provide some stability to a team that rarely inks deals as long as this one.
Long have the Sox been interested in Miami’s slugger Giancarlo Stanton, and with all of the assets the Red Sox have acquired in this rebuilding year, the possibility of acquiring him, after the Castillo signing, has become slightly more plausible. Pundits have argued that Miami, with its large Cuban population, could be enticed in giving up the All-Star in Stanton, with a trade that brings over one or both of the Cubans. Yet, we may not even need to part with either of them, as with the flexibility of Brock Holt and Allen Craig, Napoli’s assistance may no longer be necessary.
In addition, our offensively anemic rookies, Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts, who may also be obsolete on this now-stacked roster, could make up a portion of the package to bring over Stanton. Also, with so much depth, Cherington may be able to flip some of our position players for pitchers if he believes we are in the need for a pitching rotation overhaul.
At the end of the day, this signing provides flexibility for Cherington as we now have a surplus of players, especially in outfield, who have legitimate trade value. We may not be back at the top of the AL East next year, but expect big things in the years beyond that.