Boston Red Sox Sign Rusney Castillo For $72 Million
It was announced today that the Red Sox signed 27 year old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a heavily back-loaded seven-year deal worth $72 million. If the Cuban Serie Nacional stats provided here are accurate, particularly in comparison to the Cuban stats of the position players who have recently succeeded in MLB, it seems like an over-pay by the Crimson Hose.
What people are in agreement about is that Castillo has great speed and is an excellent base stealer. Otherwise, he doesn’t appear to have a lot of plate discipline, and his history in Cuba in terms of the playing time he received raises questions about just how good his defense is.
The impression I get about major league management is that it is extremely reactive. Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes have been great, so the market for Cuban talent is way up and Castillo gets a record-setting deal. If Castillo falls on his face, the market for Cuban players will drop like a stone, at least for those without the obvious talents of Abreu, Puig and Cespedes.
We’ve seen this already with Japanese and Korean players. Because Yu Darvish succeeded, Masahiro Tanaka got a record contract, and Tanaka’s outstanding performance, at least until he got hurt, means the next Japanese pitchers to leave NPB for MLB are likely to get very good contracts. However, I remember Hisashi Iwakuma signing for peanuts, or at least way less than he deserved, because the last couple of Japanese pitchers immediately before him hadn’t panned out. The next well-paid Japanese pitcher who falls on his face in MLB, and the prices for Japanese pitchers will fall again.
It’s the same with pitchers out of South Korea’s KBO. Hyun-Jin Ryu turned out to be great, and MLB got all excited about bringing more Korean pitchers to MLB. The Orioles signed the KBO’s next best veteran starter Suk-min Yoon to a three-year $5.75 million contract, but he’s been dreadful, pitching badly in the AAA International League. This most likely means no other major league team will take a chance on a KBO pitcher, even at very modest prices, until the next talent like Ryu comes along.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that scouting as its actually done is awfully subjective and heavily influenced by what other players have accomplished rather than being exclusively focused on the player actually being scouted and signed. It also means that small-market teams that can identify these trends can occasionally sign good foreign talent for bargain prices when the market is irrationally down.