Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo was drawn to the Boston Red Sox for reasons beyond his new seven-year, $72.5 million contract.
Castillo, who officially signed with the Red Sox over the weekend following an intense bidding war, viewed Boston as a place where he could be comfortable. The 27-year-old apparently relishes the opportunity to play for a passionate fan base.
“When you see the environment here that exists here in Boston every day, with a team that isn’t in first place right now, but you’re still selling out the stadiums with a real energy and electricity in the ballparks, that’s what he’s used to playing in Cuba all the time. That is his normal,” Castillo’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of Roc Nation Sports, told the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber over the weekend. “It would be odd for him to go to another city where they’re not filling the stadium for a typical day. So I think this feels like what a baseball environment is supposed to be, and I think it’s very natural for him.”
Castillo could make his way to the majors this season, likely in September, but he’ll first dip his toes in the minors. He hasn’t played a game in nearly 18 months — he was suspended from Cuba’s Serie Nacional after attempting to defect roughly a year and a half a go — so he’ll need some time to ramp up his baseball activities. The Red Sox are confident they landed an impact player, though, and his signing certainly gives Boston some extra flexibility this offseason.
The Red Sox weren’t the only team interested in Castillo, as 28 teams showed up to his showcase in Miami last month. Van Wagenen told Lauber that they narrowed the field to 13 teams, then to eight teams, before finally agreeing to a deal with Boston. According to Van Wagenen, the Red Sox were “among the most aggressive teams,” which is a clear indication of just how much they coveted Castillo.
“The interest coming out of that workout was really extraordinary — something we haven’t seen before in a typical free agent process,” Wagenen told Lauber. “From the beginning, we got the sense that it wasn’t going to be valued simply as a Cuban market contract, but rather it was going to be a contract that was set in the context of what talent with premium speed, premium defensive ability and potential for plus power, what the marketplace was for players with those skills.
“What we found was that there was a premium placed on those players with that dynamic skill set in past free agent marketplaces, and especially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or, more importantly, in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched (Castillo’s) skill set. So it became a matter of how do you gauge his talent with respect to the market for free agent players, and what’s the appropriate level of discount that you might take for a player that truly has never had a track record within Major League Baseball.”
Signing Castillo obviously comes with risk given that he’s an unknown commodity. But Castillo has the tools to become a very good major leaguer, and it seems he also has the perfect mindset to thrive in a big market like Boston.