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.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”