Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is returning to the United States, as he has signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, per the team’s transaction log. It does not appear as though the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.
Castillo, 34, spent the 2021 season in Japan after signing a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball last January.
In 33 games with the Golden Eagles, the right-handed hitter batted .225/.282/.276 with one double, one home run, three RBIs, four runs scored, four walks, and 17 strikeouts over 76 plate appearances. He also appeared in 17 games with Rakuten’s farm team of Japan’s Eastern League.
More recently, Castillo suited up for Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific Winter League this off-season and posted an OPS of .727 in 13 games (60 plate appearances) with the club.
A native of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Castillo famously signed with the Red Sox as a highly-coveted international free agent in August 2014. Touted as one of the top players available at the time, Castillo — then 27 years old — inked a lucrative seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Boston.
That blockbuster contract proved to not work out for both player and team. Castillo debuted for the Sox in late September of the 2014 season and showed promise by slashing .333/.400/.528 with two homers and six RBIs over the course of a brief 10-game sample.
The following year, Castillo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for the first time in late May. He was sent back down in June, but spent the rest of the season in the majors after getting called up again in late July, though he did so while struggling to the tune of a .647 OPS.
Less than halfway into the 2016 campaign, Castillo was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20 after clearing waivers. He made his first Opening Day roster and appeared in just nine games with the Sox that season. It goes without saying that the decision to take him off the 40-man roster was an impactful one.
That being the case because Castillo played out the rest of his contract in the minor-leagues as a result of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement at that time. Since he was not on the 40-man roster, Castillo’s salary did not count against the Red Sox’ luxury tax threshold. Were he to be added to the 40-man again, the remainder of his contract would then count against the threshold.
Financially speaking, having Castillo on the 40-man roster was not in the Sox’ best interest. And despite providing solid production for the PawSox and receiving regular invites to big-league camp in the spring, Castillo became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 season after going more than four years without an MLB plate appearance.
All told, Castillo hit an underwhelming .262/.301/.379 to go along with 12 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 35 RBIs, 45 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 16 walks, and 63 strikeouts across 99 games (337 plate appearances) in his three seasons with the Red Sox.
Now, Castillo will look to find his footing in the United States once more. The 5-foot-9, 205 pounder turns 35 in July and could provide the Nationals with some intriguing veteran outfield depth in the upper-minors for the 2022 season.
(Picture of Rusney Castillo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)