In December, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency was able to secure a 10-year, $240 million deal from the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano.
Nine months later, Roc Nation secured the largest contract for a Cuban defector as the Red Sox will sign Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract. The deal was first reported by Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
That deal starts this season and runs through the 2020 season. It’s possible that Castillo could be in the majors this year but whenever he gets there the Red Sox will have a Cuban combination in the outfield with Yoenis Cespedes signed through next season.
The signing also represents a trend of increasing contracts for Cuban players in recent seasons.
Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A’s before the 2012 season. Yasiel Puig signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers in June 2012 and Jose Abreu signed a six-year, $69 contract with the White Sox last October.
According to baseball-reference there have been 183 players born in Cuba in baseball history including Tony Perez, Tony Oliva and Jose Canseco and this recent group also includes Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman and injured Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez.
Abreu, Cespedes and Puig have combined for 133 home runs and 433 RB1. Castillo is viewed as having decent power but is more of a prototype center fielder with a mix of speed and power.
In 360 games in Cuba, he batted .319, had a .383 on-base percentage and a .899 OPS. Castillo also slugged 51 home runs and stole 76 bases but has not played in Cuba since 2012, ending that season on a suspension.
By comparison, Cespedes was a .334 hitter with a 1.049 OPS in Cuba and Abreu batted an incredible .393 with an astounding 1.339 OPS in Cuba.
Castillo also is the 83rd player to defect from Cuba since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. From 1963 to 1990 only two players defected but starting in the early to mid-1990s there was a steady stream of Cuban talent. Among the more notable Cuban defectors from the mid-1990s were Orlando and Livan Hernandez, Rey Ordonez and Danys Baez.
Overall seven of those players made at least one All-Star team and 16 have played at least five seasons. In the last five years 18 of those have appeared in the majors leagues including the powerful trio of Abreu, Cespedes and Puig.
By adding Castillo, the Red Sox are hoping their unproductive center field issues will get solved.
After allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to sign a seven-year deal with the Yankees, Red Sox center fielders have posted a paltry .205 batting average and a .281 on-base percentage.
The Red Sox started the year with Grady Sizemore in center field and he batted .216 in 52 games. Then they turned to Jackie Bradley Jr. who had the same average in 112 games before getting sent down to Triple-A. Now they are getting a look at Mookie Betts, a converted infielder.
Castillo’s signing ends a long process that saw 28 teams watch his workouts after he established residency in Haiti.
It was reported that the Tigers were also in the lead for Castillo along with the Red Sox. Like the Red Sox, the Tigers were in need of center fielders after trading Austin Jackson.