This is only the beginning.
OF COURSE this is a precursor to the Red Sox trading for Miami Marlins All-Star Giancarlo in the offseason. Every move the Red Sox make in terms of outfield depth is difficult to process as otherwise. But there’s more at play.
Who knows what the Red Sox might be getting in outfielder Rusney Castillo, the Cuban defector who inked a seven-year, $72.5 million contract on Friday with Boston, which outbid the Detroit Tigers for the 27-year-old’s services. Castillo’s talent has been described as “raw,” some scouts comparing him to fellow countryman Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers, others a Cuban version of Coco Crisp. He’s an unknown with a high ceiling, one the Red Sox apparently felt was worth the investment, particularly after losing out on slugger Jose Abreu, who went to the Chicago White Sox last offseason and is currently one home run shy of Nelson Cruz’s league-leading 33.
Castillo hit .315 with a .383 on-base percentage with Ciego de Avila in Cuba from 2011-13. He’s considered a line-drive hitter, one that some scouts saw as a fourth outfielder in the majors, with the untapped power that made Abreu such an attractive option over the winter. Abreu signed a six-year, $72 million deal with Chicago. The Red Sox were reportedly only $5 million short and weren’t going to make the same mistake with Castillo, even if his skill-set might not be as fine-tuned as Puig or Abreu, or his power as evident as with new teammate Yoenis Cespedes.
But the Red Sox have made it clear: They are in the Cuban market, with Cespedes (for one more year, for now, anyway) and Castillo atop the neon-flashing billboard.
You think Yasmani Tomas is watching intently?
Mookie Betts may or may not play the role of meat in the Red Sox’ Cuban outfield sandwich the remainder of this year and beyond. Odds are Castillo plays center in 2015 as Betts moves to Miami as part of a package for Stanton. That’s no longer the stuff of fantasy but an expected avenue for the Red Sox to travel down this offseason. Stanton is no slouch defensively, Castillo has impressed scouts with his speed and his ability to read the ball (if not exactly his arm), and you’d be a fool to take Cespedes’ cannon and make him a long-term solution as the designated hitter to take over for David Ortiz, whenever exactly that day may come.
Perhaps indeed acquiring Cespedes, who arrived in Boston earlier this month in the deal that sent Jon Lester to Oakland, and Castillo was a precursor to the Sox’ interest in Tomas, a 23-year-old Cuban player who defected in June. According to BaseballdeCuba.com, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Tomas hit .286 last season with 15 home runs, 60 RBIs and 45 runs scored.MLB.com reports that his power is a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale and that he profiles as a corner outfielder who will most likely need time at Triple-A before joining a Major League team.
Tomas needs to establish residence in another foreign country and be cleared by Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control before being declared a free agent, according to the site. That should happen by this offseason.
Here he is launching one for Cuba in last year’s World Baseball Classic.
How’d that look headed for the Monster Seats?
If Castillo turns out to be a bust, it’s a rather expensive one, but a mistake the Red Sox can still afford to make. If his presence, along with Cespedes, makes Boston the most attractive option for a young player like Tomas, it’s even more worth the investment.
Here come the Cubans. And Stanton too. Make no mistake about that.