Playing Nine Innings while trying to figure out how to properly pronounce Rusney …
1. Well, this lost Red Sox season just became a whole hell of a lot more interesting, didn’t it? While there might be some concerns as to whether Castillo is rusty, those who have seen him suggest he could handle beginning his professional career stateside in the big leagues. And what exactly do the Red Sox have to lose by doing so? They have 35 games left. They’re 15 games below .500. And Pawtucket’s remaining schedule is dwindling to single digits (though they’re likely headed to the playoffs). The Red Sox should bring Castillo to Boston, let him get acclimated, and give fans something to look forward to watching every night other than David Ortiz’s quest to drive in 50 percent of the entire team’s runs.
2. And the offseason certainly got more interesting, not that it wasn’t already intriguing with the logjam of young talent either in the big leagues or on its way, making a major trade almost a necessity. While we’re only beginning to learn what Castillo is and will be as a player — who knows now whether he’ll hit for power, get on base enough to be a leadoff hitter, or be anything more than an average defender — he is at the very least another fascinating, appealing asset, and his arrival may allow the Red Sox to part less reluctantly with other prospects. (See: Mookie.) But Castillo’s contract, provided that he proves, you know, good at baseball, is affordable for any team in any market and financial situation. And his Cuban roots may have particular appeal in certain cities. Speaking of which: For those of you starting to recognize how this is all shaping up with Giancarlo Stanton, well, thanks for joining us. You’re all welcome here. There are cookies and fruit punch available at the counter in the back. Care to help me plot the course of this bandwagon’s victory lap? Figure it’s good to be prepared.
3. Presuming Castillo remains with the Red Sox, he’ll be an absolute bargain at seven years and $72.5 million should he performs anywhere near his comps. Brett Gardner, for example, has been worth $97.3 million to the Yankees over the last seven years — and that includes a ’12 season in which he played just a dozen games. Shane Victorino, another popular comp, was a $28 million player for the Red Sox last season, and has submitted seven seasons of at least $11.8 million in value. The risk-factor with Castillo is high because you just don’t know how he will acclimate to everything. But this sure looks like a great price for the Red Sox based on what he’s expected to be.
4. Hey, even if he turns out to be nothing more than the next Rajai Davis — a low-OBP speedster who plays OK defense and generally submits something around a 95 OPS+ each year — it’s still a decent deal. Of course you hope Castillo is much more than that. Much more than that. But at roughly $10 million per year, he’s basically getting paid at a Rajai Davis rate.
5. I know I nag you guys about this from time to time, but let’s try to avoid making generalities about players of a certain nationality based on how their countrymen have performed here. Comparing Castillo to Puig or Jose Abreu is roughly as valid as comparing Rajai Davis to Bryce Harper or, you know, Mike Trout. All they really have in common is geography.
6. I mean, if the Red Sox hesitated on bidding on Yu Darvish because of their frustrating experience with Daisuke Matsuzaka, they’re not nearly as sharp and open-minded as we think they are. That’s not that far off from suggesting that teams should have passed on Texas prep lefty Clayton Kershaw coming out of high school because David Clyde flopped all those years ago. Every player should be judged on his own merits and skills, not on how those of similar heritage or background fared before him.
7. I’m really curious to see where Castillo ends up on Red Sox prospect lists. Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart are 1-2 on SoxProspects.com’s rankings, and they have ascended to the point that they’re regarded as among the top 20 to 30 prospects in baseball at this point. Would Castillo slot in behind that duo but ahead of No. 3 Henry Owens? is he a top-40 prospect? Top-50? I think it’s safe to assume he doesn’t rocket to the No. 1 spot — or anywhere near it — on Baseball America’s top 100 like Matsuzaka did before the 2007 season.
8. I can’t recall a Red Sox team — or any team, actually — that has had more intriguing players with multi-positional versatility than this one. Brock Holt has proven capable at worst everywhere he has played, Mookie Betts looks more comfortable in the outfield since his return, and now there’s Castillo, who succeeded Leonys Martin as the Cuban National Team’s center fielder and also apparently has the ability to play the infield. The math in sorting out the best-case scenarios for the 2015 roster just keeps getting more complicated, but there are plenty of fun potential answers.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
The best we can hope for is that Castillo becomes the second-most-popular and enduring Cuban-born Red Sox star we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Because no one is gonna top El Tiante.