The Red Sox have agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with outfielder Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Red Sox near agreement on 7-year deal with Rusney Castillo

August 22, 2014 - 7:22 am

According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox are in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo on a seven-year, $72.5 million deal that will take effect starting in 2014 and run through 2020. Earlier this week, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that the Red Sox had worked out the 27-year-old (Cherington himself attended the workout) and had talked to him, but didn't elaborate. "He's a player we've seen and we've talked to, but we're just one of several teams that have done that," Cherington said Tuesday at Fenway Park. "There's nothing more I can say." The 5-foot-9 Castillo, who is represented by Roc Nation Sports, a partnership of Jay-Z's Roc Nation and CAA Sports, is viewed as a player with elite speed that allows him to be a game-changer on the bases and also permits him considerable range in the outfield, where he can play center or right. He also shows the ability to impact the ball as a line-drive/gap hitter. Castillo's former teammate Yoenis Cespedes offered the following description of Castillo to earlier this month: "If he's not a five-tool player, he's a least a four-tool player. He's very comparable to [Dodgers outfielder Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities." Puig may be a bit of a stretch as a comparable talent; one evaluator suggested that the Sox signed Castillo more with an eye toward acquiring a player along the lines of a Shane Victorino in his prime -- a terrific athlete who has outstanding speed, can play center or right field (more likely center) for the Sox at a high level, and, while not having the power of a Jose Abreu, possesses an ability to impact the baseball that suggests the potential for double-digit home run totals. Castillo represents an effort by the Sox to stockpile talent, though one industry source noted that the team has yet to decide what to do with a wealth of outfielders that now includes Castillo, Allen Craig, Yoenis Cespedes, Victorino, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt. In theory, the Sox could keep the entire group thanks to Holt's versatility and the fact that Betts and Bradley can be optioned to the minors. Indeed, part of the incentive for adding Castillo was to ensure that neither Betts nor Bradley need to be rushed into an everyday big league role if they haven't shown that they are ready for it. Established stars from Cuba have transitioned more seamlessly to the big leagues than have top prospects coming from Triple-A in recent years. Still, while it is possible that the Sox could keep the entire group on their 40-man roster, it is more likely that the Sox will trade from their wealth of outfielders. It remains to be seen, however, which outfielder(s) go, given that it will take time for the team to assess the trade landscape for all of them. Nonetheless, with a potential surplus of outfielders who carry value, along with a volume of starting pitching prospects in Double-A and Triple-A, the Red Sox are positioning themselves to be in tremendous position for trades this winter. As of roughly noon, while the two sides were working together to define the terms, the agreement had not been formally reached. However, the concept being discussed would have Castillo receiving a prorated minimum for 2014 (receiving a percentage of the roughly $500,000 minimum -- likely in the vicinity of $80,000-$85,000 for roughly a month under contract), with the balance of the $72.5 million paid in a signing bonus and spread out over the six full seasons. Even with that structure, Castillo will count for $10.36 million against the luxury tax threshold for each of the seven years of his deal, including 2014. However, the Sox cleared enough payroll at the 2014 trade deadline that, as of now, it does not appear that they will exceed the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014. Instead, the Sox will be stockpiling talent with a chance to use the final weeks of the season to get a sense for different roster permutations while preparing for an offseason that could take on any number of directions as the team looks to leave behind a dreadful 2014 season.