The number of teams chasing after Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo continues to shrink as more information comes out about the kind of offers he's received. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox, Tigers, and Giants are still in on Castillo, while at this point, bids from the Yankees, Phillies, and Cubs are not expected to be the high bid that likely secures the free agent's services.
The loss of those clubs is great news for the Red Sox, as the Cubs had essentially infinite budget space to work with given the low-cost construction of their team -- one made up of prospects and inexpensive veterans -- while the Phillies are always a concern to go big on the the free agent market, international or otherwise. The Yankees, of course, are a massive threat as well, but they are maybe out of the running as they have other, better uses for their money going forward given the holes in their rotation. Whatever the reason, the Red Sox will take it, though, they aren't guaranteed Castillo by any means in spite of this.
The Tigers are in win-now mode, and could use Castillo right now, especially after trading away center fielder Austin Jackson in order to acquire another ace in David Price at the trade deadline. They've shown a willingness in the recent past to go big with financial commitments even if they are potentially harmful in the future if they have a chance to help them in the present while their core exists, so Castillo could easily become a Tiger if they do so again. The Giants did not have a single prospect in the top-50 of any midseason prospect lists, and while Castillo is already 27, he would provide them with a peak years bat with defensive skills in a lineup that could use more help both now and in the future. The Giants also have deeper pockets than fans of other teams might realize: their 2014 Opening Day payroll was $149 million, or, just $7 million shy of Boston's. The Giants have added $53 million in payroll since 2010's franchise-high $96 million mark, and that kind of spending is sustainable given the voracious appetite for baseball in San Francisco coupled with the organization's wild success over the last five years.
The Red Sox have plenty of their own reasons to acquire Castillo, of course. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s defense has been phenomenal, but his bat has been poor enough that serious questions about whether he's a major-league hitter now exist, and he's in the minors for something of a career reset. Boston has prospect Mookie Betts to play center field instead, but he could just as easily shift over to right -- as could Castillo, if Betts' arm is a worse fit. Shane Victorino is still on the payroll, but he underwent back surgery this summer, and counting on him for anything when you could try to land Castillo instead would be silly given the nature of back injuries and Victorino's own track record with health. Daniel Nava is a good player to have, but he's a stretch in right field and needs a platoon partner. Allen Craig could turn out to be a massive boost to the lineup, but given how he's performed since his foot injury late last year, he's still a gamble whom the Sox could lose money on. If he does turn it around, first base will be open after 2015 anyway, so it's not as if there is no use for him ever in Boston even if the outfield ends up packed.
Yoenis Cespedes is about the only lock out there, as he was acquired for Jon Lester for a reason: the lineup needs more power in it, and Cespedes has plenty of that. Boston has already been clear about their desire to extend him beyond 2015 as well, whereas plans beyond tomorrow for most of the rest of the outfielders are uncertain.
In addition, acquiring Castillo would just make it that much easier for the Red Sox to make a trade that upgrades them elsewhere on the roster, and to maybe leave Betts in the minors until they see what Victorino can do for them, if anything, in 2015. All of this talk about what to do with the outfield could be for naught as well, as Castillo also has experience at third base, and the Red Sox have an obvious need there given the failure of Will Middlebrooks to blossom in 2014 combined with Garin Cecchini's power-less Pawtucket campaign.
The point is, though, that all three of these clubs have a great reason (or reasons) to spend the $55 million or possibly more on Castillo, and we'll likely find out which of the three succeeds in this goal before the week is up.