Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo defected earlier this year and is expected to sign with an MLB team shortly after a showcase on July 26 at the University of Miami. While scouts and executives from every team are expected to be on hand for the workout, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that Cubs, White Sox, Braves, and Giants are among the teams who have expressed interest.
Known for his plus-speed, Castillo is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds and hits from the right side of the plate. Sanchez notes that the 27-year-old has drawn comparisons to the likes of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kenny Lofton, though Ben Badler of Baseball America has written that there’s a split on whether he’ll be an everyday player or a fourth outfielder in the majors. Either way, if he signs quickly, there’s a chance we could see him before the end of the season.
Castillo was declared a free earlier this month and will be represented stateside by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports. Since he played five years in Cuba’s top professional league, he will not be subject to MLB’s international spending limit.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.