Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is in the process of signing a 7 year/ 72.5 million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Castillo defected from Cuba this past December, following the steady flow of Cuban players that have fled the communist nation to play professional baseball in America. Fellow Cuban defectors such as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, and Aroldis Chapman have found a great success in the MLB, making Castillo very sought after by numerous clubs.
While up to eight teams were in the mix to land the outfielder, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox were the two finalists until it was reported Castillo would sign with Boston.
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Though Castillo came at quite an expense, the Tigers missed their chance to get the player they needed. And looking towards the future, Detroit is running low on options. Castillo was a player the Tigersneeded to obtain. With a weak upcoming outfield free agent class, a farm system that resembles a McDonald’s play place, and only one outfielder under contract for the 2015 season, moves are limited. Sure, he’s only 5’9, and yes, his contract is a gigantic gamble. But plain and simple, Castillo was the type of player that would benefit the Tigers more than most. He would most likely not benefit the Tigers right now to help them paddle through their river of panic, but looking towards the future, Castillo would be a key piece.
With the absence of Austin Jackson, the Tigers are left with Torii Hunter, Rajai Davis, JD Martinez, and Ezequiel Carerra in the outfield. Of those four, only Davis is under contract next season. Carerra, though talented, is not the type of player to rely on as an everyday guy. Whether the Tigers will pay JD Martinez or not is uncertain and one can only guess what will become of Hunter’s future in Detroit. It also seems safe to consider Andy Dirks obsolete. He hasn’t played a single game during the 2014 season and suffered yet another injury related setback this past weekend while running the bases during a game in Toledo, making it likely he doesn’t return this season. For the Tigers to put confidence in anybody besides Rajai Davis at this point, it’d be a questionable decision. I’m sorry if any members of the Torii Hunter fan club are reading this article but it’s the truth.
May 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter (48) during the game against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
There is a possibility the Tigers could find themselves with only one everyday, reliable outfielder come next season. And with a farm system that ranks dead last according to many sources, including Bleacher Report, there’s nobody in the minors worth holding your breath for. Tyler Collins, whom made the Tigers Opening Day roster, is putting together a fine season in Toledo, batting .267 with 18 HR’s and 59 RBI’s. But Collins is not the answer for the mere fact that he is nothing more than an average player. In 14 MLB at-bat’s, Collins collected only 2 hits and struck out 3 times.
Now, it’s not particualrly fair to judge a players ability on such a small sample size but when given the chance, the players that are capable of playing at the highest level will show everybody they are. Aside from Collins, right fielder Ben Guez is the next best option, batting .253 with 21 doubles and 16 HR’s. But since being drafted in 2008 by the Tigers, he’s never even been rumored to be called up. Placing a starter role on him and Collins is an act of desperation. I’m sorry, but the answer to the Tiger’s outfield issues does not lie within their farm system.
Looking at the upcoming free agent class, quality outfielders are very sparse. Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, and Melky Cabrera headline FA outfielders. And while it’d be nice to see all of them in Detroit, the money David Dombrowski and Co. will have to shell out for names as such would have been better spent on Castillo as he brings more skills that are beneficial to the team’s needs.
Jun 27, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nelson Cruz (23) hits a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Rays 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY
Now, Castillo has never played an MLB game and is going to make around $10 million per year, which is certainly on the expensive side. But at 27 years old, Castillo is just entering his prime. As where Cuddyer, Cruz, and Cabrera are all 30 years or older. Cruz is 34 years old and Cuddyer is 35; signing either of those two wouldn’t put the Tigers in the best situation. Cruz is leading the MLB in HR’s this season with 33 and Cuddyer won the NL Batting Title last season, but they lack the skill sets the Tigers need as both of those players are heading towards a permanent DH position in the near future. And even though Detroit would have to pay top dollar for the guy , the money just made more sense with Castillo.
Described as an above average outfielder by Jason Mastrodonato of masslive.com, “his (Castillo’s) reads off the bat are considered excellent. With closing speed and efficient route running, Castillo could be an above-average center fielder.” A player that could patrol the outfield with ease and not look lost out there in the Comerica Park grass would be nice. With the loss of Austin Jackson, the outfield defense could be described as lackadaisical at best. Mastrodonato also describes that “speed is considered Castillo’s biggest asset. He stole 68 bases at a 71 percent success rate from 2011 to 2013 in Cuba.”
“Castillo is the type of player that does what is best for his team and plays to his full potential every single game; perhaps he would benefit the Tigers a bit more than an unneeded superstar”
And while he doesn’t hit with as much power as his Cuban counterparts Abreu and Cespedes, Castillo was “hitting .315 with a .383 on-base percentage and .512 slugging percentage with Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s top league” from the years 2011-13, per Mastrodonato.
A Detroit Tigers offense that has struggled mightily as of lately could use a solid everyday guy.
A poor farm system, lack of players under contract next year, and no logical free agent options leave the Tigers with few options. The trigger should have been pulled and Castillo should be patrolling the outfield in Motown. The clock is ticking