Eventually, a team will miss on one of the Cuban stars. Maybe that team will be the Red Sox, who are on the verge of signing outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract.
But for now, the successes of Cuban sluggers Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu – combined with the lack of impact outfielders in the next free-agent class – make Castillo a worthwhile gamble.
The Red Sox came close to signing Abreu, who went to the White Sox last October for six years, $68 million. Castillo, 27, does not hit for nearly the same power as Abreu. But international scouts describe him as speedy and dynamic, capable of playing all three outfield positions. Like Abreu, he also has superior makeup – “the coaches in Cuba loved him,” one scout said.
While Castillo is unproven in the majors and has not played in a formal game for about a year and a half, his deal is for less than half of the $153 million that the Yankees gave free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury last off-season.
Meanwhile, the upcoming free-agent class of outfielders includes the enigmatic Colby Rasmus, Biogenesis alumni Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera and older types such as Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer.
For the Red Sox, Cespedes and Shane Victorino are under contract only through next season, and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are unproven. Castillo is the right player at the right time, giving them even more depth to trade for a starting pitcher this offseason.