The Boston Red Sox have signed Cuban phenom outfielder Rusney Castillo to a 6-year, $72 million deal per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
Castillo, 27, is the latest Cuban free agent to make a splashy signing. At the bat, he's known as a hitter with a line drive approach and while he put up solid numbers in the Cuban league (.315/.383/.512 from 2011 to 2013), it's not up to the level of fellow recent defectors Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu.
What do we know about Rusney Castillo?
At 5'9'' and 205 pounds, he reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle after defecting. While he's still not considered a power hitter, many see him as a 15-homer guy in ML with solid glove and great speed. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America:
Several scouts have questions about Castillo’s hitting mechanics, which isn’t uncommon for Cuban players. He has plenty of bat speed, but the swing does get long and there were times when he collapsed on his back side on Saturday.
Players are often a product of their environment. Cuban hitters frequently have long swings because they don’t have to be quick and direct to the ball in Serie Nacional, where it’s rare to see anyone throwing 95 mph and most pitchers can’t even crack 90 mph.
There’s more margin for error to gear up with some extra length in your swing when the pitcher is throwing 86 instead of 96. Castillo’s short arms help him though, and if he can make the proper adjustments, he has a chance to be a solid hitter, even if he’s not a premium threat at the plate.
How did we get here?
In the past few months, the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Phillies all attended showcases for the Cuban talent. Yesterday, Joon Lee of Over The Monster first reported the $72.5 million figure.
As recently as last night, the Red Sox were competing with the Tigers to sign Castillo.
Also worthy of mention is that Jackie Bradley Jr., while still young, has struggled this season (.216/.288/.290 line in 387 PA's) while Mookie Betts is a bigtime prospect who is only 21 years old. By signing Castillo, the Red Sox have another outfielder candidate for the 2015 season to compete in AL East.
What does this mean for the Red Sox?
The Red Sox traded for Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline to hold down left field, and he's under contract through the end of the 2015 season. And while Jackie Bradley Jr. looks outmatched by the Major League pitching, the team recently called up the 21-years old top outfielder prospect Mookie Betts. Does this mean this is the end of the Jackie Bradley Jr. experiment in Boston? We shall see.
Looking forward: Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston speculates that collecting talents like Castillo will fuel speculation of a possible Giancarlo Stanton mega-trade over the winter.