Rusney Castillo Goes On The Market As MLB Races Heat Up
Coming to our shores
The wave of ballplayers from the island nation of Cuba has been a continuing story over the last decade as many players have been leaving for the United States in search of fame and fortune. The time is definitely right for the most skilled Cuban players to make the leap. Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Alexei Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, and minor leaguer Jorge Soler are just a few of the players that have been infused into the MLB talent pool to great effect.
The money has flowed their way as well and will continue to do so for those who have the experience/age on their side to skip the bonus-caps system in place for MLB clubs to spend on international signees. These spending limits on young players has created an artificial market for talented players who don’t have those rules applying to them. They can create a bidding market for clubs unencumbered by spending rules. That’s how Jose Abreu scored a $68M contract from the Chicago White Sox last off-season.
Another player is on the precipice of making the leap to MLB. Outfielder Rusney Castillo is a 27-year old right-handed batter who held a workout for representatives of a reported 28 MLB clubs. The workout was held on a hot Miami day and featured Castillo being put through the paces in the outfield, throwing, and running the bases. He faced a young college pitcher in a live batting session as well.
As reported by Walter Villa at Baseball America had a few thoughts from scouts in attendance. Villa reported the scouts believed Castillo showed a slightly above average arm with 50-grade (on the 20/80 scouting scale) and flashed 70 speed, which is outstanding.
After watching Castillo’s hitting session scouts were saying “he’s a major league player” and that “he couldn’t improve (on that session)”. It’s safe to say Castillo met expectations in a controlled environment.
The question now is how intense will the pursuit of Castillo become? Will a bidding war be created with teams looking to add Castillo to their mix for this season’s pennant chase and teams looking to fortify for coming seasons. It comes down to what scouts feel about Castillo’s immediate readiness. If he can provide immediate help to a big league bench, there are no shortage of contenders who couldn’t take an influx of talent to inject some energy to their roster.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted on Monday that scouts are telling him that every team should be “in” on Castillo. The questions Sanchez notes for where Castillo will go next are, “Which teams will get picked for individual workouts?” and “Can the team afford him?”.
Given the money flowing in MLB these days, asking which teams can afford him doesn’t eliminate many teams. Asking which teams will choose to afford him is a different matter. At this point further tweets from Sanchez and BA’s Ben Badler indicate their sources have the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies with scheduled workouts with Castillo at this time. However its believed other teams are in the mix and will be lining up their own private sessions.
Badler lists the White Sox, Mariners, Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs, and Braves as potential suitors as well. If Castillo is judged ready to contribute now, there would seem to be no reason for the Yankees, Mariners, Giants, and Braves to make concerted efforts to get Castillo in the fold soon. All of these clubs have offensive challenges either through carrying poorly performing outfielders or having dealt with injuries. How often can a contending club add a free agent to their mix in the middle of the summer? Adding a talent like Castillo without having to sacrifice prospects should look very attractive to at least a dozen contending the clubs. As long as he judged even a step above the 4th outfielder on hand, there is no reason not to make a run at adding a talent. To be able to get a player now who could contribute for 150 plate appearances, run the bags well, and play solid defense would be invaluable. This doesn’t even take into account securing him for coming seasons. If he busts? Well…players bust all the time. That’s chance you take, but at least you took that shot by being aggressive and not leaving a stone unturned. We aren’t talking about a Ryan Howard-level commitment being poured down a drain. Even a low-budget club like the A’s could have survived if Cespedes’ 4-yr/$40M deal had been a disaster. (which we know it hasn’t)
It will be very surprising if a bidding war doesn’t, on some level, materialize for Castillo. The track record of recent Cuban immigrants can only help him at this point and the timing of a looming pennant race adds a dose of desperation for some teams to get involved in search of a difference making talent. Is Castillo that guy? Expect some team to pay a premium to find out.
Making a pure guess, the nod here goes to the Mariners. The M’s need offense in a big way, they are a club that can spend a buck, and the Roc Nation agency is handling Castillo. Who else is a Roc Nation client? The Mariners’ Robinson Cano. Seems like a fit.
The Next Guy in Line
Then get ready to do it all again in a few weeks. Another Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas has filed his paperwork seeking to get qualified to shop his talents to MLB. Tomas is said to be a power hitter, perhaps just shy of the Abreu-class. Power is money in baseball. Expect the hype machine to kick in again for Tomas.