Just a bit outside

Red Sox win Castillo derby, sign Cuban import to record $72.5 million contract

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Meet La Potential. 

Not satisfied with acquiring LF Yoenis Cespedes — La Potencia, The Power — the Boston Red Sox may have upgraded its outfield yet again after agreeing to a record seven-year $72 million with Cuban CF/SS Rusney Castillo, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.

In replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, the third time’s the charm. Maybe. Quite possibly. The Sox and 28 other teams seem to think so. We’ll see. Sooner rather than later.  

The heavily back loaded deal begins in 2014, with little guaranteed money this season that allows Boston to spread Castillo’s cap hit to just above $10 million a year, offering a rich team luxury tax relief in the next six years.

The chase for Castillo, who hasn’t played organized baseball in 2012 but wowed contending teams in his workouts, including the Giants, Tigers and Yankees, with an ability to hit the ball for power in all fields. He’ll likely see action in the majors as soon as possible*.

*Castillo, currently on a visiting visa, needs to apply for a work visa to start playing. He had until the end of August to secure the visa and be eligible for playoff rosters. By signing with Boston, grossly out of contention at this point, he can still play and not worry about missing the August deadline, though he could have beaten the August deadline anyway. For an extra $20 million (initial estimates had Castillo signing a $50 million, six-year deal), he’s not going to miss October play too much. 

Unlike his contract, which blew past the deal 1B Jose Abreu clinched with the Chicago White Sox for the highest ever given to a Cuban defector, Castillo’s bat, speed and glove aren’t guaranteed. 

Baseball American’s Ben Badler compares him to Detroit CF Rajai Davis*. Scouts agree on his attributes — good speed, a line-drive stroke and a playable glove, though they disagree on assessing his Major League potential. Per the scouts Badler spoke with at the University of Miami workouts, some say he’ll be an everyday regular, while others believe he’ll be a fourth outfielder.

*Castillo’s also compared to Brett Gardner, but with more power. We’ll see. Gardner is an elite defender, and I’m not so sure “more power” becomes much of a difference after Gardner’s home run outburst this year. One thing’s almost certain — despite owning what’s reported to be uncanny bat speed, Castillo will likely take a hit on his batting average (and his on base percentage) if he decides to swing big for 15 to 20 homers. Why? Because Major League pitchers throw harder, and they’re throwing harder with movement.  

Castillo, 27, is built like a compact Humvee at 5’9” and 205 pounds, adding muscle, Badler noted it to be about 20 pounds, since coming stateside. In 360 games in Cuba he slashed .319 BA / .383 OBP / .516 SLG, mashing 51 home runs and stealing 76 bases. 

The combination of speed and power is all too alluring for the Red Sox front office, which lately has concentrated on drafting athletic types like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The former is a natural center fielder, the latter a converted second baseman.

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