Rusney Castillo, the highly-touted Red Sox international signee whose career never quite panned out in Boston, hasn’t played baseball in the United States since his seven-year deal with the franchise expired following the conclusion of the 2019 season. But his path back to MLB suddenly is a whole lot clearer.
Castillo has signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals, via George Bissell of NBC Sports Edge. The 34-year-old comes back to the United States following a stint with Rakuten of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and spent the offseason playing in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
The Cuban native initially inked a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox in August 2014 and made his major league debut a month later. He was ranked as the No. 21 prospect by Baseball America heading into 2015, but things didn’t quite pan out.
Castillo appeared in a total of 90 games across the 2014 and 2015 seasons in Boston and hit .262, posting a .975 fielding percentage in the outfield. Boston put Castillo on waivers part way through the 2016 season (after he appeared in nine games) and was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket.
While things didn’t work out for him with the major-league club, Castillo did manage down on the farm. Through 467 games in Pawtucket from 2015 to 2019, Castillo hit .293 with 217 RBIs and 42 home runs and posted a .990 save percentage.
Could Castillo see a return to the majors in the nation’s capital? It’s not out of the question.
The Nationals have things pretty set in right field, with one of the league’s up-and-coming stars in Juan Soto. But there are some question marks elsewhere on the grass. Center fielder Victor Robles struggled in 2021, hitting just .203 before he was demoted to Triple-A, and Lane Thomas fared decently in 45 games with the Nationals after he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Andrew Stevenson hit just .229 in 2021, his first season appearing in more than 57 games, and while Yadiel Hernández was promising in his second year in the majors, hitting .273, he may not be able to keep it up. He also doesn’t have any major-league reps in center field, while Castillo saw a bulk of his work there.
All of that is to say that the Nationals may be looking to the man-of-the-hour to fill some holes in the outfield. And if Castillo can get hot at the right time, there certainly is no reason it wouldn’t be him. Don’t call it a comeback just yet — but Castillo is worth keeping an eye on.