UPDATE: Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Castillo will earn a base salary of $600,ooo with Rakuten with the chance to earn up to $1 million in incentives.
If there was any chance that former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo would return to the major-, or minor-, leagues in 2021, those hopes officially went out the window on Saturday.
That being the case because the 33-year-old Castillo inked a contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, per a team statement.
Castillo originally signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston back in 2014. That contract ran out in November, making the Cuban-born outfielder a free agent.
Upon signing with the Sox in August 2014, Castillo got the chance to make an impact almost immediately, as he made his major-league debut on September 17.
In a brief, but impressive, first exposure to big-league pitching, the right-handed hitter posted a solid .333/.400/.528 slash line to go along with two home runs and six RBI over 10 games and 40 plate appearances through the end of the 2014 season.
That led many to believe that the Red Sox may have indeed found something in Castillo, but that turned out to not be the case for reasons that were very well out of his control.
After appearing in 80 games in 2015, Castillo received very little playing time the following year.
In the wake of an 0-for-3 showing against the Orioles on June 16, Castillo was placed on waivers, where he went unclaimed before getting outrighted from Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20.
From there, Castillo was essentially left in purgatory with Triple-A Pawtucket.
He put up decent numbers in an everyday role with the PawSox (career .761 OPS with 42 homers over 1,973 plate appearances), received invites to major-league spring training year in and year out, and ‘received consistently strong marks for his work ethic and commitment to prove that he didn’t belong’ in Triple-A, yet could never get the call back up due to his contract.
Put another way, as long as the Red Sox kept Castillo off their 40-man roster, his hefty contract would not be counted towards the team’s luxury tax bill.
So, that left Castillo in a spot where all he could really do was ride out his deal in Pawtucket. And he did so while keeping his apartment in Boston, too.
Upon becoming a free agent over the fall, Castillo signed on with Aguilas de Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific Winter League. He is currently slashing .250/.333/.288 with three doubles, six RBI, and three stolen bases over 22 games, per Baseball Reference.
With Rakuten, Castillo will wear the No. 12. In a statement released by the Golden Eagles, the veteran outfielder says, “I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a member of the Rakuten Eagles and am very much looking forward to playing in Japan. I hear that NPB is a great league, and above all, I love the disciplined culture of Japan.”
As noted by MLB Trade Rumors‘ Mark Polishuk, if Castillo finds success in Japan, it should be interesting to see if he has any major-league opportunities awaiting him next winter.
(Picture of Rusney Castillo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)