Caught in one of the more unusual contractual situations in recent baseball history, Rusney Castillo will remain with the Red Sox in 2020, as he tells Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated that he won’t exercise his opt-out clause for the final year of his contract. As per the terms of that original seven-year, $72.5MM deal, Castillo has the ability to become a free agent after this season, though in declining the opt-out, he’ll earn the final $13.5MM owed to him in salary.
There was no expectation that Castillo would opt out, given that he hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since June 16, 2016. “You’re not going to cancel something when you don’t have anything else,” Castillo told Apstein. It’s hard to argue with the 32-year-old outfielder’s logic, as he would surely have to settle for a minor league contract if he did opt out, even if such a non-guaranteed deal might be the only realistic way he plays in a big league game in 2020. Still, Castillo has continued to live in a Boston apartment, Apstein writes, out of a belief that he will eventually return to the Red Sox and the majors, and he makes a daily commute to Rhode Island for every home game for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.
Castillo was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster in June 2016, and under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement (signed in the 2016-17 offseason), putting him back onto the 40-man at any point would have made his contract once again eligible to be counted for luxury tax calculations. This would have added an extra $10.357MM (the average annual value of Castillo’s deal) onto Boston’s tax bill for the remainder of Castillo’s contract, regardless of whether or not the Sox outrighted him again. As Apstein notes, even trading Castillo would have some luxury tax repercussions for the Red Sox, not that teams were exactly lining up to acquire Castillo and add his contract to their own books.
The end result is that Castillo has become a fixture at Triple-A Pawtucket, appearing in 389 games for the PawSox since being outrighted. He has continued to hit decently well (17 homers and a .278/.321/.448 slash line over 493 PA in 2019), but even with spectacular numbers, it’s unlikely Castillo would have been an option for a Red Sox club that was both facing major luxury tax concerns and also didn’t really have a need in the outfield with Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. forming one of the game’s best trios on the grass.
Given that the new CBA also changed the nature of international signings, Castillo’s $72.5MM deal has remained the largest deal ever given to a player who defected from Cuba. Castillo arrived onto the MLB scene with a great deal of hype, though ultimately hit only .262/.301/.379 over 337 plate appearances with the Red Sox from 2014-16.