The most bizarre contract year belongs to Rusney Castillo

Rob Bradford
February 19, 2020 - 2:18 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rusney Castillo's locker hasn't moved from the far end of the Red Sox' clubhouse at JetBlue Park. The names around him have revolved since that first spring training with the big-league club in 2015 -- when Castillo was fighting for a starting spot against guys like Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. But that one spot has been a constant.

This figures to be the last year.

After joining the Red Sox in 2014 after signing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in 2014, Castillo's time with Boston has one season left. After predictably not taking the opportunity to opt-out of his contract following the 2019 season, he will be making $13.5 million to play the entire season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

"I understand that I have to go out and have the best year I can because it is a contract year for me," Castillo told through a translator. "Whatever happens afterwards, happens but I’m just preparing myself to hopefully get a chance to be up in the major leagues.

"I’m really just focused on this season. I’m focused on the present and whatever happens after I’m trying to get that contract. But what I’m more focused on is now and whatever comes after will get settled when it does."

The story of why Castillo won't be able to find his way back into the major leagues for the first time since 2016 is well-documented. He is simply not valuable enough for a team to allocate that much money against its payroll, particularly for a part-time role.

After playing that final game on June 16, 2016 against the Orioles it was determined by then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski that Castillo's spot on the 40-man roster was no longer viable. Since then the outfielder has played in 427 minor-league games without a single return to the majors.

The 32-year-old is perceived by most as a serviceable major league outfielder, coming off a year with Triple-A Pawtucket that saw him hit .278 with a .769 and a career-high 17 homers. And we will get another look at Castillo this spring training, where the outfielder has excelled in years past (.368 batting average in 2017, .317 in 2018).

But really it's going to be the same old, same old for the affable Cuban. For one more year, anyway.

"At first, it was a bit frustrating but it doesn’t change the way I go about my business," said Castillo of his lot in life. "I try and work hard and try and take advantage of the opportunity I have in Triple-A and if they give me that opportunity to get back in the majors, I’m just always ready for that moment."