The phone rings. It’s a rival team asking for you to consider one of their prized assets. The pitch begins and you like what you hear:
“No time for small talk. I’m a bit of a hurry. I got something special for you, and you’re the first person I’ve called, so you’ll probably have to move pretty fast. He’s a versatile outfielder, capable of playing all three positions, though his primary position is centerfield. He grades out as an above-average fielder with a plus arm and great baserunning skills. Oh, did I mention that he won a Gold Glove?
Though he did battle some injuries last year, he enjoyed the most successful campaign of his career. He has a coveted combination of speed and power. Last year, in only 87 games, he had 15 home runs and 14 steals. Extrapolated over a full season, there’s reason to believe he could realistically be a 25-25 guy. And do you know who had a 25-25 season last year? Nobody! Altuve and Betts were close, but both came up a home run short.”
Wow. That sounds great! Who exactly are you…
“But it’s not just the home runs. He had 22 doubles last year, good for a .507 Slugging percentage. Do you know who else had a .507 slugging percentage last year? Anthony Rizzo. Have you heard of him?
In the past, he did struggle with hitting a high rate of groundballs. But, it seems that those days are behind him, and with additional coaching in adjusting his launch angle, we feel he could be even better. It’s not that we don’t love the guy. We just have a crowded outfield. That’s all.
I don’t understand. Did you…
Though he doesn’t take a ton of walks, he still managed a respectable .350 OBP this past season. And that reminds me, do you know who else had a .350 OBP last season? Brett Gardner. Oh, and my guy, yeah… he’s 4 years younger than Brett.
Here’s the thing. We’ve decided to make him available. We’re not trying to be too picky. We’re pretty open toward a return. We could try to match contracts if you want, but we would settle for a middle-of-the-rotation arm with a couple years of control.”
Wait. Wait. Wait. Stop for just a second here. I must be missing something. Who are you talking about?
“Yeah. Just a few more details. Well, he does come with a very manageable 3 year/$38 million contract. Second, um… that Gold Glove… technically, it was actually awarded to him while he was playing in Cuba. Oh, and those stats were mostly… well, exclusively… against Triple-A competition last year. His name is Rusney Castillo.”
Do you know what a contract like that can get you in this market?
“Well I did see that Tyler Chatwood and Zack Cozart signed very similar contracts.”
Yep. Durable major league talent. And they were acquired for cash. No draft picks or trades. Just cash.
“We would also entertain a bullpen arm.”
In 2014, the Red Sox were the hard luck losers in the Jose Abreu sweepstakes. Being outbid by a mere five million by the White Sox, former General Manager Ben Cherington quickly rebounded. That August, he announced that the Red Sox had signed Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo to a 7 year, $72.5 million dollar contract.
Castillo was touted as a potential five tool player prior to defecting from the island, in hopes of playing in the Major Leagues. What drew the Red Sox to Castillo? Well, Rusney is the proud owner of a strong and accurate right arm, he’s got power which is demonstrated with every max-effort stroke he takes, and the 5’9″ Cuban defector showcased serious speed as well; Baseball America clocked him at 4.1 from home to first.
The hype surrounding Castillo was real, and from the moment he stepped onto the field at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, the hope was that he would be a staple of the outfield for years to come.
Unfortunately, that has yet to happen for Castillo. Since making his Red Sox debut in 2014, (10 games, 12 hits, a pair of home runs, and 19 runs knocked in to go with three swiped bags) Castillo has played in a total of 89 games over two years. Over that span, the outfielder hasn’t shown much of an ability to hit breaking balls, or make adjustments to major league pitchers. Since the start of 2015, he’s hit just .253, with a .288/.359/.647 slash line.
However, last season in AAA Pawtucket was the best yet for Castillo since joining the Red Sox three years ago. It appears the 30 year old has finally turned a corner, posting the following:
.314 / .350 / 507 / .857, 15 homers, 22 doubles, and 43 RBI in 87 games
He also chipped in with 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts. One would think with this type of output, Castillo would have a shot at becoming Boston’s fourth outfielder come the 2018 season, right? Not quite.
With an annual average value (AAV) of $10.36 million over the next three seasons, before expiring in 2020, Castillo’s contract could prevent him from playing for Boston not just in ’18… but ever again. This is where the situation regarding Castillo becomes confusing. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, Rusney’s contract didn’t count towards the team’s financial payroll for that specific season. Because Castillo was not on the 40 man roster at the time of the signing, he was grandfathered in under the old rules.
However, under the new CBA which is now in effect, it requires contracts of outrighted players (Castillo) to count against the CBT; regardless of whether the Red Sox were to add him to the 40-man roster, or not. This quandary with Castillo’s contract will impact how Dombrowski assembles not only this year’s team, but as well as how he plans to structure teams over 2019 and 2020 as well.
So for as much talent as there could be with Castillo, he’s most likely going to be toiling away for another season in AAA, unless he’s traded to a team that would take on the financial burden that he’s become. Rusney’s future in Boston has more questions than answers right now.
The Red Sox brass, and fans, hope that the situation comes to a much needed conclusion.