Red Sox: Rusney Castillo and the return path to Boston or elsewhere

Mar 19, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo (38) catches a fly ball in the first inning of the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo (38) catches a fly ball in the first inning of the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have a real financial albatross in Rusney Castillo. Is there a way that his contract can eventually turn positive?

Time for my morning rendition of “The coffee must be making me crazy!” since this is all about one of the most notorious of failures in recent Red Sox history. Check that – all of Red Sox history. That, of course, is the ill-fated signing of Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 Million contract as an international free agent (re escapee) from Cuba.

Castillo was viewed as that most traditional of tempting tidbits by scouts – a five-tool player. In Cuba and most importantly international play Castillo was a very hot item and let the bidding begin as GM’s lineup to make Castillo a very wealthy young man.

More from BoSox Injection

Boston had already lost out on a perceived Cuban slam dunk in Jose Abreu so this was one they were not going to miss out on. The vault was opened and Castillo became a Red Sox center fielder of the future. The 26-year-old had a promising beginning hitting .333 with a pair of home runs in just 10 games. The real seal on that September call-up was a 6-11 with a home run against the New York Yankees. A promise of things to come. Baseball America had Castillo ranked 21st in their pre-2015 prospect rankings.

For Castillo and the Red Sox, it fell apart starting in 2015. Injuries, poor performance, laziness, complacency, bad karma – who knows? Whatever happened Castillo was a failure and designated for assignment. Naturally, with the price tag, Castillo was shipped to Pawtucket since no one would pick up that check.

Castillo did nothing for Pawtucket in 2016 hitting .263 and tagged two home runs and 37 RBI in 429 plate appearance. No great hopes emerging for Castillo.

At Pawtucket, this season Castillo has steadily improved as the International League season moves forward. His average is .306 and that is among the top ten in the IL. Castillo is third in doubles and even has nine steals being nabbed only twice. His outfield work is errorless and his nine home runs are a bonus.

Castillo is a noted free swinger – with the bat, that is – and has just a meager six walks, but only 29 strikeouts in 233 plate appearances. Now, 29-years-old Castillo would possibly be playing in the majors now except for that burdensome contract.

If the Red Sox needed a bat off the bench, a fourth outfielder or even a starting outfielder if injuries necessitated then it would not be Castillo. Castillo is off the 40-man roster so that would be a slight deterrent – minuscule in the big picture. What is not minuscule is his price tag. Back on the roster and the Red Sox go over the luxury tax and that is verboten.

What about the future?

For the sake of debate or non-debate – make it conjecture or just dreaming and say Castillo continues as he has for a full season at Pawtucket. Extrapolating the numbers you would have a talented player who may not be classic five-tool, but a competent outfielder. Then what?

More from Red Sox Prospects

Maybe Castillo – who played the infield a bit in Cuba – will get some reps at third this year in the IL? Maybe in the winter league? A real long-shot, but after watching Pablo Sandoval flop around at third even a novice would do.

The Red Sox will be off the books with the dependable Chris Young, who collects about half the salary as Castillo. Other financial moves may be made that could potentially have the Red Sox recoup some of their investment in Castillo. That would open up a roster position – if they could manage the LT. And it is all about the money.

Never leave out the possibility of a trade. The Red Sox could certainly make one and that would open up some outfield work and Castillo would be back in town. The Red Sox may get fiscally lucky and another team is willing to take on a portion of Castillo’s contract. A need arises and GM’s have some rather strange reactions.

Castillo – at least I hope he does – has dreams of making it successfully at the MLB level, but the contract has him tied down. Castillo has an opt out after 2019 and can give up the money. Would you? There is always a negotiated settlement possibility – unlikely but possible.

Next: Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval sitting again

So Castillo will bounce along at Triple-A this season knowing that he is fiscally set for life, but with some unfinished business – the whole personal pride thing and earning that money. If his contract was 1/10th of what it is or even 1/5th Castillo may be in Boston or elsewhere on an MLB roster.

Stats through 6/18.