In the midst of an extremely disappointing season, the Boston Red Sox are gambling on a better future with the signing of highly touted Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.
According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, Castillo and the Red Sox have agreed to a seven-year deal, and he is expected to play for Boston during the current campaign:
Sox agree on 7 year 72.5m deal with Castillo , joins club this season: Source— Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) August 22, 2014
There is no denying the fact that the Red Sox are going out on a limb to some degree by signing a largely unproven commodity. With so many teams vying for the services of international players like Castillo, though, aggressiveness has become a necessity.
Based on the way the Red Sox have operated since last offseason, their pursuit and signing of Castillo doesn't come as a major surprise.
They were among the suitors for Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, who ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is enjoying a spectacular rookie season, with 32 home runs and 90 RBI to his credit.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Boston's failure to sign Abreu likely had something to do with its pursuit of Castillo:
Red sox bid hard for jose abreu and were disappointed not to get him. Pursuit of rusney castillo makes sense.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) August 22, 2014
This is the second high-profile Cuban outfielder that the Red Sox have added in a span of just three weeks. At MLB's non-waiver trade deadline, Boston dealt starting pitcher Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for dynamic slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
The combination of Cespedes and Castillo figures to be an exciting one at Fenway Park for years to come, but Rotoworld's Matthew Pouliot isn't convinced that it is a smart move:
Red Sox wouldn't give Jose Abreu $70 million, will give it to Rusney Castillo when they already have two CFs. No thanks.— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) August 22, 2014
His concern has some merit since it remains to be seen how the Red Sox plan on using Cespedes and Castillo together, but the move shouldn't be discounted right off the bat.
Castillo won't put up the same numbers as Abreu. However, that doesn't mean he can't match his value. He is a different type of player who adds value from a defensive and base-running standpoint that Abreu doesn't. Because of that, Castillo could prove to be just as vital.
The fact that Castillo is expected to join the Red Sox this season adds an interesting wrinkle to the signing. It isn't often that teams are able to sign a supremely talented player in the middle of a season and utilize them immediately.
When Castillo does officially get added to the roster, Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com points out that he will have to knock off some rust:
One amazing part of the Rusney Castillo story: He hasn't played a formal league game in about a year and a half.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 22, 2014
With that said, there is also some concern that Castillo isn't exactly in his best form right now, per ESPN's Jayson Stark:
One exec who has seen Rusney Castillo recently says he's seemed worn down by all his workouts. Hasn't flashed same power he showed early.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) August 22, 2014
How well and how much Castillo plays during the remainder of the 2014 season isn't the main concern, though. Simply integrating him into the organization and allowing him to get a feel for the majors should be the goal in order to set him up for success in 2015 and beyond.
The Red Sox are 56-71 and last in the AL East. That means they can afford to experiment without the fear of negatively impacting a run at the playoffs.
Is this a good signing for the Red Sox?
There is always inherent risk involved with throwing big money at a player who has never competed in the big leagues. Castillo's talent is obvious, though, and recent Cuban signings have worked out well.
The likes of Abreu, Cespedes, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and many more have gotten their MLB careers off to fine starts.
This contract obviously looks like a roll of the dice for Boston right now, but it could prove to be a major coup if Castillo lives up to his immense potential.
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