Shane Victorino Trade Opens Door For Rusney Castillo’s Big Opportunity

The path is clear, the door is open and the invitation has been delivered. It’s up to Rusney Castillo to join the party, to make himself comfortable and to reserve a space at the Boston Red Sox’s 2016 table.

The Red Sox traded outfielder Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Angels on Monday in exchange for infielder Josh Rutledge. Victorino was a likely trade candidate given he’s a free agent after this season, but Castillo’s presence at Triple-A Pawtucket certainly expedited the process. Boston, sitting in last place in the American League East, needs to see what it has in Castillo going into next season.

“We just want to see (Castillo) continue to get comfortable and acclimated at the big league level,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Monday on a conference call. “This is a guy obviously we believe in and believe will be a good major league player. Hopefully there’s now an opportunity for him to get a good chunk of playing time between now and the end of the season to get comfortable at the big league level and continue to make his adjustments at the big league level before we head into the offseason so that he can feel better about where he is and we’ll have a better sense of where he is.”

Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox last August. The Cuban outfielder showed flashes of his upside in 10 major league games down the stretch in 2014, but he has played in just 27 big league games this season. He has spent much of 2015 at Pawtucket.

One can’t blame Boston’s roster crunch for Castillo’s inability to take the next step. He failed to make an impact in his one-month stint with Boston earlier this season, leading to sporadic playing time and ultimately a demotion as the Red Sox looked for ways to give him everyday at-bats. But this marks Castillo’s best opportunity yet, as Victorino’s departure means it’s officially open season for him to seize the right field job and ensure the Red Sox don’t soon regret last season’s sizable investment.

“We’ve seen flashes of really good stuff and still a guy that’s making adjustments,” Cherington said. “He’s, in all likelihood, always going to be a little bit more on the aggressive side, and we think he has a chance to be a successful hitter — an aggressive-style successful hitter — because of the bat speed and strength and his ability to barrel up the ball in different areas and hit the ball hard to different parts of the field, along with what we think in time will be good defense and good baserunning and sort of an all-around game.”

The “all-around game” Cherington mentioned was on display last September, when Castillo hit .333 with two home runs, six RBIs and a .928 OPS over 40 plate appearances in his first taste of The Show. Earlier this season was a different story, suggesting a need for additional minor league seasoning, but the organization’s faith in the 28-year-old hasn’t wavered.

“I think what we see is a guy who has great bat speed strength,” Cherington said. “I think he’s still just adjusting to a North American or a major league style of pitching, in terms of what pitchers are trying to do and learning how to use his style and his strengths in a way that works at the major league level.”

Castillo hit .282 with three homers, 17 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a .722 OPS in 40 games for the PawSox. He’ll need to continue to improve in his return to Boston, especially in the field and on the bases, where he experienced some hiccups in his last major league stint. But the potential is there.

It’s time to reach it, or else the Red Sox’s long-term view of right field could change this winter.

Check out the video above to hear Tim Wakefield’s take on the topic.

Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images

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