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August 22, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Reports: Red Sox sign Cuban OF Rusney Castillo

According to several reports, Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo has agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez first reported that the deal was for six years, $72 million, but ESPN.com's Gordon Edes and WEEI.com's Alex Speier have reported that the deal is actually for seven years, beginning this year and running through the 2020 season.

According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, who has written extensive reports on Castillo, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound 27-year-old's best tool is his plus-plus speed. Although scouts had graded his power as below-average to average while he played in Cuba, he has gained 20 pounds, mostly muscle, since his defection, and scouts at his workouts early this month increased their grades on his power to above-average. Castillo was primarily a line drive hitter, but his showcase batting practice showed a marked increase in raw power from his sessions during international competition.

Castillo has the ability to play center field in the major leagues. Badler reports that his arm strength has apparently decreased since his time in Cuba. Although Castillo took ground balls at shortstop during his showcase, Badler reported that he did not look natural there, and the Red Sox are far more likely to keep him in the outfield, where he won a Gold Glove in Cuba's Serie Nacional in the 2011-12 season.

Although Castillo is, by far, the highest-profile Cuban signing the Red Sox have made in recent years, and is certainly the first major league-ready signee, he is certainly not the first. Until today, the most notable Cuban signee under the current regime was shortstop Jose Iglesias, who signed at age 19 in September 2009 for a four-year, $8.25 million major league deal, including a $6.25 million signing bonus. Other players signed in recent years out of Cuba, all to minor league deals, included right-handed pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, who signed last October at age 27 for a $4 million signing bonus, 23-year-old catcher Adalberto Ibarra and 25-year-old outfielder Juan Carlos Linares in July 2010 for respective $750,000 signing bonuses, and 23-year-old outfielder/first baseman Jorge Padron in March 2010 for a $350,000 bonus. The Red Sox had reportedly made strong bids to sign White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in 2013. 

Castillo's signing makes clear the Red Sox's logjam in the outfield entering the offseason, as the club also has Allen Craig, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Mookie Betts, and utility player Brock Holt on the roster. The club would likely seek to deal from this surplus, as well as its stockpile of young, high-minors arms, in pursuing trades, for example in attempting to find the top-of-the-rotation arm the club now lacks following the trade of Jon Lester to Oakland.

FoxSports's Ken Rosenthal reports that Castillo's deal is backloaded so that he will not be paid very much this season, given that just over one month remains. Speier, in an updated report, says that, as of noon, the precise terms have not been determined, but discussions would have Castillo receiving the prorated major league minimum in 2014, with the rest of the deal paid out in a signing bonus and over the following six seasons. Speier also reports that Castillo will count for $10.36 million against the competitive balance tax each year of the deal, but the team cleared enough payroll at the trade deadline that it will not exceed the tax threshold in 2014 despite adding that figure.

Castillo is represented by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports. Although it is a moot point given that the organization had already blown past its international bonus pool, because his is 27, Castillo's bonus will not count towards the Red Sox cap.

Photo credit: Rusney Castillo by Baseball America