Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo declared free agent, repped by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports

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Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo defected earlier this year and Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the 26-year-old has been declared a free agent by MLB and will be represented stateside by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.

Known for his plus-speed, Castillo checks in at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds and hits from the right side of the plate. Badler writes that scouts don’t expect him to have the impact of Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes in the majors and that there’s a question of whether he’ll be an everyday player or a fourth outfielder. Still, he should generate plenty of interest.

Because Castillo played five years in Cuba’s top professional league, he will be exempt from MLB’s international spending cap. The Cuban market has become quite lucrative in recent years, so it’s a smart play for Roc Nation to get involved, even if Castillo isn’t expected to be a star in MLB.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.