Rusney Castillo arrives in Boston

ByJoe McDonald via ESPN logo
Sunday, August 24, 2014

BOSTON -- After winning the rights to sign Cuban-born prospect Rusney Castillo, the Boston Red Sox introduced the newest member of the organization Saturday night at Fenway Park.

Following the Red Sox's 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners, which extended Boston's losing skid to seven straight, general manager Ben Cherington introduced a player the organization hopes will be its future center fielder.

The sides Friday agreed on a seven-year, $72.5 million deal, and Castillo passed his physical on Saturday before he officially signed his contract. Dressed in a sharp gray suit with a purple shirt and purple and gray tie, Castillo put on a No. 38 Red Sox jersey and donned a Red Sox hat for the first time.

The deal begins in 2014 and continues through '20. Castillo, who will earn $100,000 for the remainder of 2014, will receive a base salary of $10.5 million in 2015-17, $11 million in 2018-19, and $13.5 million in 2020, a league source told's Gordon Edes. Castillo also gets a $5.4 million signing bonus.

The contract also includes an opt-out to become a free agent after 2019 (which will be Castillo's age-31 season), according to ESPN's Pedro Gomez. This is the first time a Cuban player is guaranteed the right to, at some point, give up guaranteed money for free agency.

"It really means a lot for me to be able to be a part of such an historic organization and I'm ecstatic to be here," Castillo said, with the help of translator Adrian Lorenzo.

Castillo will return to Miami on Saturday night and still needs to secure a work visa. Once that issue is cleared, he will travel to the Red Sox's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, and in the next few days will continue his baseball activities, with the hope he can ramp up his game preparation and play in a few minor league games before that season is over next week. The overall plan is to have him play for the Red Sox in September.

"We're certainly really excited about this signing," Cherington said.

The Red Sox first saw Castillo play for Cuba during the World Cup of Baseball in 2011 in Amsterdam, and again in Taiwan in 2012. From the time Castillo defected from Cuba, the Red Sox have built a close relationship with him and his representatives. Cherington explained the team really got to know Castillo in the last several weeks on both a personal and professional level.

"This is an exciting player. He's got a great combination of skills -- defensive ability, speed, solid power, he has a really strong track record in Cuba and we're excited to add him to the organization and we feel like he can be a big part of winning Red Sox teams here for a long time," Cherington said.

Since Castillo has been on the team's radar for several years, and many scouts and top evaluators in the organization have watched him play, the Red Sox also studied all the performance data out of Cuba. Cherington feels the team is getting more precise in its ability to translate all the information and figure out what it means.

Cherington pointed to the recent success of other talented Cuban players now in the majors, including fellow Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu.

"We've seen what those transitions have looked like, so based on all that, you put it all together and we're able to make an assessment of what we think he can be. And, obviously given the commitment, we think he can be a really good player for us for a long time," Cherington said.

Castillo hopes to have the same type of major league success as the other recent Cuban who made the major league leap.

"It's really a dream come true to be given this opportunity to play, especially in light of the success of recent Cuban players. It's an honor and a privilege, really," Castillo said.

The Red Sox lost out on the Abreu bidding to the Chicago White Sox last year, and also have struggled as defending World Series champions. Cherington, though, said those factors had nothing to do with the decision to sign Castillo.

"It wouldn't have changed our evaluation of him," Cherington said. "Certainly, you make decisions based on all the information you have at the time, and I think we all know we're trying to build a winning team as quickly as we can and we're confident we can do that. We felt like Rusney could be an important part of that, but obviously this is a long-term commitment. This is not a decision that's being made about next week or next April. This is someone who we think is going to be a core part of our team for a long time and be part of what we hope is a very deep and talented roster in the short term and moving forward."

From Day 1 of this process, the Red Sox have done their due diligence and conducted many interviews with Castillo and the people who know him best.

"Everything that came back on Rusney from anyone we talked, people that have been around him, people that have known him, was just very positive," Cherington said. "This is a young man who just loves to play baseball, a competitor, someone we thought would fit well in the organization."

Until the Red Sox and Castillo came to a verbal agreement, Cherington admitted he didn't think he would be able to sign the Cuban prospect until the moment the team arranged a flight for him to come to Boston for a physical. Cherington described the process as professional and fair.

Castillo arrived in Boston and spent Saturday morning introducing himself to his future manager and teammates, including Cespedes.

"I really didn't talk to him throughout the process, but I got to talk to him today for a little while and he's obviously a player I've admired for a long time and I'm happy to be a member of the Red Sox with him," Castillo said.

Despite his lack of playing time the last year and half, Castillo is confident he'll be ready for game action sooner than later.

"To me, at this point it's not so much about the time missed, because even though I've missed a year and a half of games I've been training every day and that's what has gotten me most prepared on a day-to-day basis and that's what I'll continue to do moving forward," Castillo said.

Moments after the nearly 20-minute introductory news conference concluded, Castillo was back on a plane to Miami. If everything goes according to plan, he will make his major league debut next month, and the organization hopes he will be an impact player for a long time, especially given the commitment it has made.

"We think he has a chance to impact the game in a number of different ways," Cherington said. "We see him as a very good major league player and part of a winning team here in Boston."

Information from contributor Kyle Brasseur contributed to this report.

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