Ask five Red Sox fans what they think of Rusney Castillo’s 7 year, $72.5 million deal, and you’ll get five dissenting opinions. Some are wary of his relatively pedestrian numbers in Cuban professional baseball, and his tools that simply can’t compare to those of Cuban stars like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, and new teammate Yoenis Cespedes. Others are salivating at his untapped power, his plus-speed, and his solid defensive skills. Scouts have even compared him to Andrew McCutchen.
Even if Castillo doesn’t become the next Cuban phenom like Puig or Cespedes, this contract will turn out to be a steal for the Red Sox.
In today’s MLB, $10.35 million (the average annual value of Castillo’s deal) isn’t nearly as much money as it used to be. To put that number into context, Ryan Dempster ($13.25 million) and Shane Victorino ($13 million) were given more money per year than Castillo. Dempster posted unimpressive numbers with the Sox in 2013 (8-9, 4.57 ERA), and the aging Victorino posted slightly above-average numbers – when healthy.
Perhaps Castillo’s biggest attribute is the impact his signing will have on any future attempts by Red Sox brass to net another Cuban defector. With Cespedes and Castillo serving as two of Cuba’s most prominent major leaguers, other Cubans following in their path will be more apt to sign with Boston. This will be a tremendous advantage for Ben Cherington and company in their pursuit of Yasmani Tomas, a 23-year-old Cuban slugger who may have more power than any other Cuban to defect to the States. Tomas could play first base, or potentially become the designated hitter when, dare I say it, the great David Ortiz decides to hang up his cleats.
The other distinct advantage to Boston’s addition of Castillo is the impact it has on the biggest fish – marlin, to be specific – in the sea: Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. At only 24 years old, Stanton is already a premier slugger in baseball, and is many people’s choice for National League MVP. Stanton leads the NL in home runs (32), RBIs (89), and places in the top-15 in batting average (.295), all while being surrounded by a sub-par Marlin lineup. The price will be steep, and a deal will have to be centered around top prospects Mookie Betts and Henry Owens, but Stanton is worth the slew of prospects.
A Cespedes-Castillo-Stanton outfield sounds fine to me, especially with the return of talented outfielders Shane Victorino and Allen Craig (who I, personally, think should start at first base) to back them up.
The Red Sox now can focus on pursuing starting pitching in free agency. Jon Lester and Max Scherzer are obviously the big names on the market, but they are succeeded by a talented core of starters, including James Shields and Hisashi Iwakuma, all of whom can aid an ailing rotation.
We won’t have to wait until 2015 to get our first look at Castillo, however. According to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, Castillo is on the way to Boston today.
Rusney Castillo, welcome to Boston.