Boston Red Sox five biggest player busts from 2010-2019
By Mike Towle
At first glance of this page, there probably is strong sentiment among Red Sox fans that outfielder Rusney Castillo, now on the high side of 30 years (he’s 32), should be higher on this list. Maybe even in the No. 1 spot.
OK, let’s think about this. In signing Castillo to a seven-year deal in 2014 worth $72.5 million that included a $5.4 million signing basis, according to spotrac.com, then-Red Sox GM Ben Cherington essentially was saying this was a gamble worth taking. The Red Sox outfield was in a state of flux, all three starting jobs still being contested. Chris Young, anyone?
As reported by Stephanie Apstein of SI.com, Castillo had been playing for his hometown team in the Cuban league, the Ciego de Avila Tigres, and had demonstrated enough all-around skills to convince Cherington it was safe to fork over an eight-figure deal. Castillo, although just 5-9, had the power-packed look to go with plenty of speed, a strong bat and a solid glove that had the Sox believing him to be the Red Sox’s center fielder of the future. Or at least it was between him and Jackie Bradley Jr. There was always left field, too.
As Apstein points out, however, the keen contact skills and power Castillo had shown in Cuba didn’t carry over to Major League Baseball in America. In 99 games for the Red Sox between late 2014 and early 2016, Castillo batted a credible .262, but numerous base-running blunders, surprising lack of power (only 7 home runs in 317 at-bats), and a dearth of walks (16 total) showed substandard offensive skills begging for more time in the minors.
Although unknown at the time, a demotion to Pawtucket in 2016, while removing Castillo from the team’s 40-man roster, would effectively doom his chances of ever playing another MLB game with the Red Sox over the four-plus years left on his contract.
Here’s what happened: Less than six months after Castillo was optioned back to Pawtucket (June 2016), MLB changed a rule regarding salaries of players added to the 40-man roster. Those salaries would now continue to be counted for luxury-tax purposes even if such a player were to be later removed from the 40-man roster. Castillo and his $10+ million salary were now stuck at Pawtucket, tucked away like aging sepia-toned photos stowed in a trunk catching dust in the attic, out of reach of the luxury tax.
With Andrew Benintendi, Bradley and Mookie Betts now firmly entrenched as the Red Sox starting outfield as the 2017 season opened, the Red Sox had no fiscal choice but to keep Castillo down. He was now the highest-paid sailor banished to a ghost submarine stealthily roaming the depths of the sea, its mission being to not surface for another four years. His hatch had been battened down.
Castillo has since blossomed somewhat at Pawtucket, winning PawSox MVP honors the last two seasons. Over the three and a half seasons years since that 2016 mid-season demotion, he has batted .294 and slugged .429, earning praises and recommendations for a promotion from PawSox Manager Billy McMillion. Still, no promotion nor is their one likely forthcoming, unless Betts gets traded and Sox stay in-house to fill that spot. Don’t hold your breath.