The Nationals signed former Red Sox outfielder and one-time top prospect Rusney Castillo to a minor league deal earlier this month. The 34-year-old Cuban defector, who spent 2021 playing for NPB’s Tohoku Rakuten Goldean Eagles, will most likely begin the season with Triple-A Rochester but could be given a chance to compete for a bench role.
Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5MM deal with the Red Sox in 2014 after Major League Baseball declared him a free agent, but he never lived up to the lofty expectations that followed. After posting an impressive .333/.400/.528 line in a ten-game cameo to close the 2014 season, the toolsy outfielder opened 2015 with Triple-A Pawtucket, appearing in 80 major league games after a late-May call-up. Though he played sparkling defense in Fenway Park’s atypical outfield, logging 14 Defensive Runs Saved across all three spots, he struggled to get on base and to hit for power, notching only 5 home runs and 13 walks in 289 trips to the plate on the way to a .253/.288/.359 overall line. For his career, Castillo sports a .262/.301/.370 triple-slash in 337 plate appearances across three seasons.
Following a brief stint in the bigs, the Red Sox placed Castillo on waivers in June 2016, outrighting him to the PawSox after he went unclaimed. The outfielder played out the remainder of his contract there, posting a palatable .293/.335/.425 line across parts of five seasons, but was never given another shot to hack it in Boston.
With the rebuilding Nationals’ outfield in a state of flux, Castillo could get the chance to log some time in the bigs in 2022. Despite struggling to a .225/.276/.282 line in Japan’s top division in 2021, he’ll look to compete for a role in an outfield mix that currently includes Yadiel Hernandez, Lane Thomas, Andrew Stevenson, Donovan Casey, and former top prospect Victor Robles alongside all-world right fielder Juan Soto — though an additional spot could open up should the new CBA include a universal DH and the Washington brass seek to lessen Soto’s injury risk by keeping him off the field. Fans should expect the Nats to bring in another minor league free agent or two to join the competition before Spring Training arrives, whenever that may be.