Praise has been far from faint for Rusney Castillo, who is considered to be the latest in a long string of impact players imported from Cuba. The highly regarded 27-year-old outfielder seems to be nearing a decision on where he will play, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald and ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes report that Castillo is expected to "declare his intentions any day now."
Castillo's July showcase at the University of Miami drew plenty of buzz from the scouting community, as 28 teams were represented at the event, and many came away quite impressed. He subsequently embarked on a series of private workouts with clubs that appears
Castillo should be in line for an impressive payday, though it's unlikely that he receives as much as Jose Abreu got from the White Sox last offseason. Represented by Roc Nation Sports, Castillo was said to originally be in line for a $25-$35 million deal, but it now looks like he will outdo the $42 million that Yasiel Puig got from the Dodgers a couple years ago. According to Peter Gammons, he is now looking at a deal between $40 and $70 million, while FOX Sports' Jon Morosi pegs him as receiving something around six years and ~$50 million.
Castillo is a potential impact player, with plus-plus speed that allows him to play a solid center field, though he has spent time in the middle infield in Cuba, and could play there at the big league level, although scouts seem to prefer him in the outfield. His arm is just average, and one evaluator called it "his weakest tool," insinuating that he is a true five-tool talent. At the plate, he has a rather aggressive approach, but seems to make the most of it, displaying a strong overall hitting ability and power tool. Scouts have likened Castillo's talent to that of Ron Gant, who was a two-time All-Star, posting a 33.9 WAR in a 16-year career, including a 4.0 WAR average from 1990 to 1996.
Part of the draw for Castillo is that he is essentially MLB-ready, likely only requiring a short stint in the minor leagues just to give him some reps. His readiness could wind up factoring into the playoff race, as a contender in need of outfield help could be inclined to add him for October. Of course, Castillo would have to sign by August 31st to be eligible to play in the postseason, and that is far from a sure thing. He is currently without a work visa, having only obtained a visitor's visa.
Aside from possible visa issues, clubs also seem to be concerned about his calcium intake per Gammons. Stress fractures to a pair of Cuban players in the Cubs' Jorge Soler and Tigers' Jose Iglesias has led many inside the game to question the diets of Cuban players, who seem to be lacking in the calcium department.
There seems to be a long line of suitors for Castillo, though the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, and Cubs seem to be leading the pack. The Yankees may be somewhat of a stretch, as they will be severely over the luxury tax line next season with Alex Rodriguez coming back from suspension. The Yankees are also already well-stocked with outfielders, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are locked up for the foreseeable future. New York could be among the few clubs that actually views Castillo as an infielder, potentially using him to replace Derek Jeter or fill their dire need for a second baseman.
The Red Sox reportedly like Castillo "a lot", though, due to the flurry of moves they made at the trade deadline, they are chock full of outfield options. Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all represent options to fill the Red Sox' three outfield spots next season, though that likely will not stop them from adding further talent in Castillo if the opportunity is presented. If Boston does wind up with Castillo, it could increase their odds of making a serious run at Giancarlo Stanton this winter, allowing them to consolidate their talent in a single deal.
The Phillies now appear to be a long-shot to sign Castillo, but they are still very short on impact players of any age, and Castillo's relative youth would be a huge coup for them. The Tigers, meanwhile, could really use another outfielder with Austin Jackson now gone, and they surely can't be happy with their recent loss of the division lead to the Kansas City Royals. The Cubs have had a heavy presence on Castillo since his showcase, and could view him as a long-term option despite their plethora of positional talent.
Those five clubs are far from alone in their pursuit of Castillo. The Mariners, Orioles, Giants, Astros, Blue Jays, White Sox, and Braves have also all been mentioned as potential suitors, and could wind up nabbing him when his decision is announced, likely within the next few days.