The Red Sox are set to sign free agent outfielder Rusney Castillo to a six-year deal worth $72 million. Marino Pepén had the news first:
[Update] Make that seven years at $72.5 million in order to cover the remainder of 2014, according to Alex Speier. This seems like a small difference, but it could mean the Red Sox are only on the line for $10 million in average annual value, the figure the team focuses on in order to stay under the Collective Bargaining Tax threshold. It's only $2 million, but that's a nice little bonus all the same.
Castillo, 27, is the latest big-name free agent to come out of Cuba ready-made for the major leagues. While he doesn't cut the most impressive figure at 5'9" and 185 pounds (give or take, depending on who you ask), Castillo has impressed scouts with his combination of bat and foot speed. His contract surpasses that of Jose Dariel Abreu, who signed last October for $68 million.
Described at one point as "Brett Gardner with power," Castillo has played much of his Cuban career in right field, but would likely be destined for center field in the MLB, where he has shown plenty of aptitude playing for the Cuba in international baseball. With the only real weakness to his defensive game being a weak arm (something the Red Sox have dealt with at that position before), he doesn't need to do much with the bat to be a valuable baseball player.
But, as you might have surmised by the aforementioned comp, the Red Sox expect him to do just fine at the plate. Castillo is a more aggressive hitter than Gardner, but has the bat speed to produce plenty of hits, and if not top-of-the-line power, certainly more than you might expect for a player of his size. 15-20 homers and plenty of line drives from a good defensive center fielder is quite the exciting package.
How the Red Sox will choose to introduce Castillo to the majors. They still have over 30 games left to play this season, and while some believe players like Castillo would benefit from an adjustment period in Triple-A, Castillo is very much MLB-ready. Boston's roster is awfully crowded right now, but with Castillo clearly a big part of the plan going forward, the Red Sox might be ready to shift some bodies (and cut some ties) to get him in the outfield right away.