The Boston Red Sox already added one Cuban outfielder in their quick tear-down-and-rebuild, acquiring Yoenis Cespedes in a deal for Jon Lester. Now the Red Sox are close to adding another sought-after Cuban: outfielder Rusney Castillo, an MLB-ready 27-year-old who looks likely to fill the gap left by Jacoby Ellsbury's departure.
According to Jesse Sanchez and Ian Browne of MLB.com, the Red Sox are close to finalizing a seven-year, $72 million deal, which would be a record for an international free agent. Castillo's contract would reportedly start immediately and end after the 2020 season. The Red Sox haven't confirmed the deal. Fellow Cuban Jose Abreu's six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox currently stands as the most expensive for an intenational free agent.
Castillo is speedy with a sneaky powerful bat. And now he becomes the latest Cuban to make a high-profile (and high-priced) leap to MLB. Cespedes, Abreu and Yasiel Puig are among the Cubans who have come to the U.S. to play baseball in recent years and found immediate success. Don't immediately think Castillo is cut from the same cloth as the others, though. His tools are a little different.
Here's a video of Castillo's workout for MLB clubs (28 of them!). It's set to a Jay Z soundtrack because Castillo is signed to Hov's Roc Nation sports agency.
Sanchez and Browne sum up Castillo's story, skills and market as such:
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound outfielder left Cuba six months ago and established residency in Haiti. He was cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a team last month and was later declared a free agent by Major League Baseball.
Approximately 28 teams scouted Castillo during his workout in Miami last month. The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Mariners, Reds and Tigers were among the teams to hold private workouts for the outfielder.
Known as an athletic outfielder with surprising power, Castillo has drawn comparisons to Ron Gant, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in terms of style of play, and he is seen as close to big-league ready. Whether the 27-year-old would provide that type of impact this season is up for debate. He's an older and a more seasoned talent than most amateurs, but he also hasn't played competitive baseball in more than a year.
The big question at this point is where Castillo fits in the Red Sox's plans, whether this year or next. Castillo plays centerfield and the Red Sox had Jackie Bradley Jr. pegged as their center fielder of the future, even though he hasn't had the season that many hoped in 2014. The Red Sox could have newly acquired Allen Craig in right and Cespedes in left.
Of course, the Red Sox have been wheeling-and-dealing a lot lately, so it's very much a possibility that general manager Ben Cherington has more deals in the works.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
- - - - - - -