Remember Rusney Castillo? Signed to a seven-year, $72.5MM contract in August 2014, the Cuban outfielder had a rough season in the majors with the Red Sox the next year and has barely appeared in the majors since. The Red Sox have minimized their luxury-tax bill by keeping Castillo in the minors, and he’s likely to stay with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, but he’ll be a free agent thereafter. The 32-year-old discussed his status with Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, saying: “My goal remains the same: I want to make it to the big leagues. And if given the opportunity, give 100% to Boston. That’s the goal, to get up there.” As Mastrodonato notes, there’s at least an outside chance Castillo will return to Boston late in the season if the team’s well under the tax threshold by then (he’s due a $14.3MM salary, so it could be a tall order to fit him in). Castillo will first have to impress in Pawtucket for that to happen, though. He wasn’t great at the highest level of the minors in 2019, when he hit .278/.321/.448 with 17 home runs in 493 plate appearances.
- Sticking with the Red Sox, ace Chris Sale has been on the mend from 2019 elbow problems and a recent bout of pneumonia, but he’s recovering well. Sale’s “progressing quickly and could begin to face live hitters soon,” Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes. However, it’s not clear whether Sale will be ready for the start of the season. The 30-year-old had a stunning amount of difficulty preventing runs in 2019, when his ERA ballooned from 2.11 the prior season to a career-worst 4.40, but most of his other numbers looked fine. Sale notched a 3.39 FIP/2.93 xFIP with 13.32 K/9 and 2.26 BB/9, suggesting he’s still a front-of-the-rotation talent.
- Indians closer Brad Hand turned in excellent overall production yet again in 2019, but his effectiveness waned to a worrisome degree from late June through the end of the season. That was thanks in part to injuries that limited him to 57 1/3 innings – his fewest in more than a half-decade. Hand dealt with left arm fatigue that kept him out of action for a large portion of September, and he ended the year with his worst average fastball velocity (92.9 mph, compared to 94.1 in 2018) since 2012. “For whatever reason this tired arm affected my arm slot and pitches,” Hand told Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com, adding, “This year I’ll probably take a few more steps and stay ahead of it.” Manager Terry Francona’s hopeful that Hand will build up his velocity slowly this spring, as opposed to maxing out before the season starts. This is the last guaranteed year on Hand’s contract, but if he continues to hold his own, it’s hard to believe the Indians (or, if they trade him, another team) won’t exercise his $10MM club option for 2021.
- Angels manager Joe Maddon will sit down with first baseman/designated hitter Albert Pujols nearer to the season to discuss his 2020 role, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer appeared in 131 games last season, but it went down as the third straight campaign in which he logged below-replacement-level numbers. Pujols batted .244/.305/.430 with 23 homers and minus-0.2 fWAR over 545 plate appearances. The majority of his work came at first, though he may have to battle Tommy La Stella for reps at the position this season. And Pujols probably won’t get much time at DH because of the presence of Shohei Ohtani.