We’ve been following the derby to sign Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. Now it looks like the Red Sox have won the derby:
The deal would be a record for an amateur free agent, which is a coup for Roc Nation, Jay Z’s agency. That’s a lot more than Yasiel Puig got ($42 million), and Puig was considered Castillo’s closest comp. Of course, almost as soon as Puig hit the big leagues everyone realized that the Dodgers got a bargain. And people have realized that Jose Abreu was underestimated as well. Elite Cuban players are more big league ready than a lot of experts thought.
A good question is what the Sox will do with Castillo. He’s a center fielder and is said to have plus speed. The Red Sox, however, have been grooming Jackie Bradley, Jr. to take over center. And have taught the position to Mookie Betts as well. They also have Allen Craig, Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Nava hanging around in the corners. You have to assume that the Sox are going to trade one of those guys. Maybe two. I suppose it depends on how much faith they have in Castillo.
But $72 million suggests an awful lot of faith.
The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.
Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.
Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.