Where in the world is former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo?
This former Red Sox player was a two-time team MVP, multiple league All-Star, and was cut loose. The unfortunate is the honors were all in Triple-A and not MLB for Rusney Castillo. Castillo has left North America and is now in Nippon Baseball.
He signed an enormous contract that paid the Cuban $72.5 M over seven seasons. A right-hand hitter with possible five-tool skills. Castillo had caught the attention of scouts with his stellar international play for the Cuban National Team. Defecting was the obvious course, and let the bidding war begin!
The Castillo signing may rank as the worst in Red Sox history, and any Red Sox fan knows that category has some stiff competition. Rusney arrived in 2014 and lasted until 2016. An MLB batting average of .262 in 99 games.
The Red Sox put Castillo on waivers and had, to the surprise of no one, no takers. That meant a career at Pawtucket (AAA), where Castillo shined, but not enough to have that massive contract added back to the luxury tax.
I was surprised that Castillo drifted to Japan as he would have been a fine addition to an MLB team as a fourth outfielder. The skills were still present, and the contract would certainly be commensurate with the reported $600,000 Castillo now gets as a member of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. For those interested in Red Sox minutia Kevin Youkilis was an Eagle. So far, Castillo has been a bust. But so was Youk.
I’m sure we’ll never know why he didn’t get a call from any other MLB clubs. Decent defense and a penchant for crushing the ball to the moon will usually make one’s phone ring with offers. It may have to do with his tenure in the Minors scaring people off. Or simply the size of his contract and whether or not he’d try to command a similar one with a new squad.
The former Pawtucket man is hitting a paltry .281 with just one home run over 50 games. Injuries and performance have limited Castillo’s time on the field. The transition to Japan is the proverbial two-edged sword for foreign players. Some adapt, and others do not adjust. Is that part of the problem for him?
Castillo was a very popular player with Pawtucket. Admired by his teammates, outgoing to fans, and producing on the field. Rusney also did a commute to Pawtucket from his luxury condo in Boston. In a world where Minor Leaguers struggle to make ends meet, the Pride of Pawtucket was living big. It is a shame that he was just never able to make it work in the big leagues both for him and the Red Sox.
While he may not last in Japan, which exhibits little patience with “Gaijins,” who do not ring up the big numbers. Castillo could well be on the path to being a baseball itinerant. Is the Mexican League next? The Korean Baseball Organization? Is even MLB possible? The Castillo contract is a case in point where money has stifled professional development. If not anchored by that contract, Castillo would have been on the MLB landscape. He had the talent.