Rusney Castillo Rumors

Phillies Notes: Burnett, Adams, Castillo, Papelbon

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett dominated the Nationals last night, and on the heels of his 12-strikeout gem, he softened his stance on retirement, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“My decision will come down to how I feel and what my family and I decide,” said Burnett. “It’s just one start, but to be able to go out and do that tonight makes you wonder.” Burnett spent the majority of the previous offseason debating retirement before ultimately deciding that he would pitch again. However, he kept his choices limited, preferring only to pitch near his Maryland home, and eventually agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that starting pitching will be a priority for him this offseason — a statement that presumably will hold true regardless of the decision Burnett reaches on his player option.

Here are some more Phillies links…

  • Right-hander Mike Adams told reporters Monday (including Salisbury) that he feels as though he has stolen money from the Phillies after spending the majority of his two-year, $12MM contract on the disabled list. “There probably isn’t anyone by the situation than myself,” Adams said. Adams’ injury troubles have become severe enough that he’s not sure whether or not he will try to pitch somewhere next season.
  • The Phillies did indeed place a bid on Rusney Castillo, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it was not close to Boston’s winning offer of seven years and $72.5MM. Amaro would not characterize whether or not he considered the Phillies to be a finalist — Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that they had been, after Castillo signed — but the GM did say that the Phillies are aggressively scouting international free agents.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils are getting some calls on Burnett following last night’s performance, and he also spoke with an AL scout regarding Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (Twitter links). “He gets people out and does the job, but not much life in that arm like there used to be,” said the scout.

East Notes: Syndergaard, Castillo, Howard

Top Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard likely won’t get to make his big-league debut this season, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Mets manager Terry Collins says Syndergaard, who has pitched 124 1/3 frames for Triple-A Las Vegas this season, is close to hitting his innings limit for the year. Las Vegas will also make the PCL playoffs, so their season will continue past the usual early-September endpoint. Collins also says that if Syndergaard were to be promoted, the Mets would want it to be for more than just an inning or two. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • Rusney Castillo was able to get such a big contract from the Red Sox in part because his skill set of speed, defense and power will be rare in this offseason’s free agent market, his agent tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “[E]specially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or, more importantly, in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched (Castillo’s) skill set,” says Brodie Van Wagenen of Roc Nation Sports.
  • The Phillies need to seriously consider removing Ryan Howard from their roster this offseason, David Murphy of the Daily News writes. Howard has, of course, struggled this season, hitting .222/.300/.373, but Murphy points out that Howard’s offensive struggles go all the way back to 2012, and there were signs of decline even before that. Meanwhile, as the Phillies attempt to remake themselves, plate appearances represent an asset — a way to gain information about a player who might help in the future, like Darin Ruf. Instead of finding playing time for Ruf primarily at first, though, the Phillies are moving him around, cutting into Domonic Brown‘s playing time.

Quick Hits: Cuban Smuggling, Martin, Jackson, Howard, Castillo

While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.

  • In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
  • The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
  • In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
  • We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Castillo, Machado, Reds

Rusney Castillo will likely serve as the Red Sox center fielder, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. As Rosenthal points out, the Red Sox also need a center field quality outfielder for their spacious right field, but Castillo may not have the necessary arm strength for right. The club views Castillo as similar to Shane Victorino. He should be able hit second, sixth, or seventh while delivering power and good base running skills. Once he receives his work visa, the Sox plan to get Castillo some reps at the minor league level before exposing him to the majors in September.

  • The Orioles are going to miss the presence of Manny Machado, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Chris Davis will slide to third with Steve Pearce at first. Club officials were peeved that news of the surgery leaked so quickly, since they believe it will affect their leverage in trade discussions.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty’s contract expires after this season, but he will remain in Cincinnati. He has “unfinished business” to resolve, including a rotation that is set to lose four of it’s five members following the 2015 season.

Red Sox Sign Rusney Castillo

The Red Sox have announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year contract potentially worth $72.5MM, assuming that Castillo does not opt out of the contract before 2020.

Castillo will receive $100K in salary for 2014, but with a $5.4MM signing bonus. He will then receive $10.5MM per season from 2015 through 2017, then $11MM in 2018 and 2019. He will then have the ability to opt out of the deal or to take a $13.5MM salary for 2020. The deal also contains a limited no-trade clause.

Rusney CastilloThe 27-year-old Castillo’s name has generated increasing interest over the past several weeks, but Boston’s agreement with the Roc Nation Sports client is significantly larger than most had figured. Previous reports indicated that Castillo could land a five-year deal valued somewhere between $50MM and $60MM, but this contract will eclipse Jose Abreu‘s six-year, $68MM pact with the White Sox for the largest contract ever issued to a Cuban free agent.

Castillo, who also drew interest from the Tigers, Giants, Phillies, Yankees, Cubs and Mariners, held a showcase for scouts earlier this month. Scouts from 28 of the 30 Major League teams were apparently on hand, and the general consensus was that Castillo was a highly impressive talent who was capable of helping a Major League club in 2014.

Ben Badler of Baseball America’s most recent scouting reports cite Castillo’s 70-grade speed as his best tool, but scouts at his showcase noted that he had surprising power and an average throwing arm in the outfield, leading many to believe him capable of becoming a five-tool center fielder. Some have compared him to a more powerful version of Brett Gardner, though that is a best-case scenario outcome.

Many expected Castillo to sign with a contending team because of his proximity to the Major Leagues, but Castillo instead will be the second significant 2015 piece that Boston GM Ben Cherington has added during the 2014 season. Though the Red Sox are in last place, they’ve added Castillo and countryman Yoenis Cespedes to the fold, each of whom was acquired with the intention of helping Boston’s chances next year.

The signing of Castillo adds to a crowded outfield picture in Boston. Shane Victorino and Cespedes are both under contract through 2015, with Cespedes set to earn $10.5MM and Victorino earning $13MM. The team also acquired Allen Craig from the Cardinals in the John Lackey trade, and Craig is guaranteed $26.5MM through the 2017 season. While he can play first base or DH, of course, the Red Sox have Mike Napoli and David Ortiz entrenched at those respective positions next season.

Beyond the guaranteed contracts, Castillo’s presence further muddies the long-term roles of both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts with the organization. Bradley has proven himself an elite defensive center fielder this season, but he’s failed to adapt to Major League pitching and has authored a meager .210/.286/.300 batting line in 494 career plate appearances. Betts, a second baseman by trade, is blocked at his natural position by Dustin Pedroia and therefore converted to center field in 2014. However, with Castillo in the fold, the Red Sox now have a full outfield of guaranteed contracts, which could make it difficult for him to find everyday at-bats next year. However, Betts’ .335/.417/.503 batting line at Triple-A this season is a strong indicator that he is a Major-League-ready talent.

It’s certainly possible that the addition of Castillo will lead to some further roster shuffling by the Red Sox this offseason. Cherington and his staff will have a number of different resources — both veterans on guaranteed contracts and controllable, high upside prospects — at their disposal should they wish to leverage the trade market to address some or all of their starting pitching needs.

William Perez Villalba of Glorias del Beisbol Cubano first noted on Facebook that the two sides were in agreement and reported the general parameters, with MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez confirming that the two sides were “on track” for a deal in that range. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald and ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported the $72.5MM guarantee and seven-year term. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman and WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford were the first to report key details about the structure of Castillo’s contract.

Photo courtesy of Larry Marano.


Reactions To And Fallout From The Castillo Deal

One potential reason the Red Sox reached a deal with Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is the way the free agent market shapes up this winter, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. The Red Sox needed offensive help, but the class of free agent hitters isn’t strong, and the struggles of 2013-14 free agents like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Shin-Soo Choo demonstrate that you can get less than what you pay for. The pitching market is stronger, so the Red Sox have made a variety of moves to improve their 2015 offense, freeing them to pursue pitching this offseason. Here’s more on Castillo and the Red Sox.

  • The Giants and Phillies were among the top contenders to sign Castillo before the Red Sox eventually signed him, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.
  • The Red Sox view Castillo as a free swinger with excellent power and speed, one evaluator tells ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes. An evaluator for another team, however, tells Edes that they see Castillo as more of a 15-20 homer player than a 30-homer player. Edes also notes that Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird was a key to Castillo’s signing. “There was no stone unturned with Allard,” says a source from within the Red Sox. “He knows everything about the kid.”
  • The Castillo signing is just the latest in a long line of franchise-changing moves for the Red Sox, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. The upheaval began with the 2012 trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, and that trade may have helped give the Red Sox the financial flexibility they needed to agree to terms with Castillo.
  • The Castillo deal might not work out, but given the alternatives on the free agent market, it made sense for the Sox to sign a relative unknown for a modest yearly salary, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Castillo will make far less than expensive veterans like Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford currently do, and this offseason market isn’t a strong one for hitters.
  • Castillo won’t join the Red Sox’ active roster immediately after the signing becomes official, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets. Unsurprisingly, they feel he’ll need time to adjust after not playing competitively for more than a year.
  • Scouts like Castillo’s speed and body type, but aren’t unanimously thrilled about his hitting, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Castillo could be a plus defensive outfielder, though, which means he won’t have to be a dominant offensive player to be worth $12MM per season.
  • The Yankees liked Castillo as a player, but didn’t bid on him because of their issues with the luxury tax, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes (Twitter links). At a luxury tax rate of 50%, Castillo would have effectively cost the Yankees $108MM rather than $72MM.
  • The Tigers were not “ever really close” to signing Castillo, GM Dave Dombrowski tells MLB Network Radio (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We were basically told earlier in the week — I think first thing Monday — that we were no longer a participant,” says Dombrowski, who adds that the Tigers viewed Castillo as a good defensive center fielder with base stealing ability who might hit 15 homers per season.

Mets Notes: Carlos, Quesada, Castillo, Wheeler, Niese

The Mets have long been on the lookout for a shortstop, but while many have speculated on the possibility of a trade with the Cubs or D’Backs, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the team will take a look at an under-the-radar Cuban shortstop in the coming days. Roberto Carlos, a 28-year-old Cuban defector, is in the Dominican Republic and garnering attention from the Mets. Carlos left the Cuban National team in 2012 and defected to America, but he is believed to have “slipped through the cracks” because he did not initially seek representation after defecting. The switch-hitting Perez last batted .339 with four homers for the Cuban National team in 2012, Puma writes, and he did have a brief stint in independent ball last season. Carlos, who until recently played under his full name of Roberto Carlos Ramirez, batted .357/.394/.425 in 293 plate appearances between two indy league clubs. He didn’t homer, but he did go 19-for-24 in stolen base attempts.

Here are some more Mets-centric links as we head into the weekend…

  • Also from Puma’s piece, while the Mets weren’t involved in the Rusney Castillo sweepstakes, the money required to sign him wasn’t the reason, according to GM Sandy Alderson. “I think it’s a matter of there might be some scouting differences of opinion, and kind of where we are and what we’re going to do in the immediate future, so there are lots of issues involved,” said the Mets GM. “We scout [the Cuban market], so it’s not as if we’re not aware of what is going on. It’s not like we’re not aware of who is out there.”
  • Puma also tweets that the Mets will work out Pavel Quesada as well, a Cuban third baseman who is said to possess some power. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted last month that Quesada worked out for several teams at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic.
  • Zack Wheeler spoke with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News and said that while he’s aware that the Mets have a perceived starting pitching surplus, he’s hoping to remain with the club rather than end up elsewhere via trade. “I’d like to be here,” said Wheeler. “I know they could use one of (the young pitchers) to get a bat or two, but I’ve been here for the rebuilding. I know it’s part of the game, but I want to be here after the rebuilding. I want to see the results.”
  • In an appearance with Chris Russo on the MLB Network (video link), Peter Gammons revealed that the Mets at one point last offseason offered Jon Niese to the Mariners in a trade that would have sent shortstop Brad Miller back to New York (it’s unclear what other pieces were in the deal).  The Mets may be happy to have held onto Niese, who has posted a 3.50 ERA in 141 1/3 innings while Miller has struggled to a .199/.273/.326 batting line.
  • Gammons also opines that the Mets and Cubs don’t line up well for a trade because the Mets would likely have to part with at least two young pitchers to make a deal, and that would thin out their depth considerably.

Red Sox Seen As Favorites To Sign Rusney Castillo

As of late last night, the Red Sox and Tigers were said to be the favorites to sign Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, whose price tag reportedly could land between $50MM and $60MM over five years. The 27-year-old Castillo is expected to make a decision this weekend, with many reports having indicated that today would be the day he chooses a team. We’ll keep track of Friday’s Castillo rumors here…

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Red Sox “are working hard” to try to sign Castillo, and he, like Speier, hears that the Sox are the favorites.
  • Castillo is still talking with “multiple clubs,” including the Red Sox, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, and a decision could be reached today. Lauber also tweets that Castillo won’t be influenced by whether or not a team is contending in 2014, as he views his choice as a long-term decision.

Earlier Updates

  • WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports that rival clubs view the Red Sox as the favorites to sign Castillo. One source indicated to Speier that Castillo is still actively weighing multiple offers, but sources from multiple clubs believe the Sox to be nearing a deal with Castillo and his agents at Roc Nation Sports, according to Speier.
  • Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com spoke with a league source late last night who indicated that the Red Sox are “optimistic” that they will sign Castillo (Twitter link).

Red Sox, Tigers Are Front-Runners For Castillo

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about where Cuban outfielder/second baseman Rusney Castillo will sign, even amongst Major League teams.  An executive who has been scouting Castillo for the last month tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that “no one knows who’s getting him or which teams will jump in unexpectedly.”  Following yesterday’s updates, here’s the latest on the Castillo sweepstakes…

Earlier Updates

  • Castillo privately worked out for the Reds and Mariners within the past week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  The late date of these workouts was due to scheduling, Rosenthal notes, and shouldn’t be thought of as a hint that Castillo is favoring either of these two clubs.  Six other teams (the Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees) have now had Castillo in for a private workout, Rosenthal lists.
  • The Red Sox are one of the three teams “most actively involved” for Castillo’s services, Rosenthal reports.  Presumably the other two teams are the Tigers and Giants, as Rosenthal cited two days ago.
  • “There’s definitely a growing sense” the Cubs will be outbid for Castillo’s services, a source tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.  Another source predicts Castillo will receive a contract “much closer” to $68MM (what Jose Abreu received from the White Sox) than $42MM (what Yasiel Puig received from the Dodgers).
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott warns that a number of hurdles will have to be jumped for Castillo to be able to contribute to a team in September.  Fans also might want to temper their expectations for Castillo, as while he is expected to be ready for the majors immediately, Iott notes that it would be hard for a contender like the Tigers to just hand Castillo a starting job down the stretch in a pennant race.

Rusney Castillo Could Land Five Years, $50-60MM

The Red Sox, Giants and Tigers were said to be the front-runners for Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo as of yesterday evening. The outfielder’s rumored asking price continues to crawl upward as his decision reportedly inches closer. We’ll keep track of today’s Castillo rumors in this post…

  • ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the bidding for Castillo could cost $50-60MM over five years. Stark lists five of the six usual suspects as finalists, noting that the Red Sox, Tigers, Giants, Phillies and Yankees remain in the mix for Castillo.
  • The Phillies will take a shot at Castillo but aren’t likely to land him, multiple sources have told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

Earlier Updates

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that at least four teams remain in the running for Castillo, with the Red Sox representing one of that group. The Tigers and Giants have a sense of urgency about their pursuit, as they plan to use Castillo to bolster their 2014 playoff hopes. In addition to those three clubs and previously mentioned teams such as the Phillies, Cubs and Yankees, Heyman lists the Mariners as a team with interest, though he cautions that it isn’t clear how involved they are at this stage of the talks.
  • Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a “strong bid” for Castillo. Those wondering what sort of role the presence of countryman and former teammate Yoenis Cespedes would have on Castillo will be interested to hear Cespedes’ comments that he hasn’t spoken to his former teammate anytime recently. However, Cespedes did offer high praise for Castillo, telling Bradford, “If he’s not a five-tool player, he’s at least a four-tool player. He’s very comparable to [Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.” BoSox GM Ben Cherington confirmed that they’ve spoken to Castillo but offered no further comment. Bradford, too, hears that Castillo is expected to make a decision by week’s end.