When the Boston Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract, they probably did not envision spring training 2016 playing out in this manner.
The manner being referring to can be summed up by a Tuesday morning tweet from MLB.com’s Ian Browne.
That tweet simply stated that Brock Holt would begin the season as the Red Sox primary left fielder. The left-handed hitting Holt will start against right-handed pitchers, otherwise known as the majority of starting pitchers.
Viewed through a strictly baseball lens, this isn’t a big deal. Holt has had a better spring training than either Chris Young or Rusney Castillo. He’s been a patient and versatile presence on the team for two seasons, so handing him the bulk of starting time is simply a case of a player earning his spot.
It is a bit of a big deal because that relegates Castillo to the bench. Odds are he’s not even the best option against lefties.
That label may be more appropriately affixed to Chris Young. This past offseason the 32-year-old righty inked a two-year, $13 million contract with the Red Sox. At the time it seemed like a lot to spend on a platoon or bench player.
He’s a bargain compared to Castillo.
Castillo has been a lot of things, but one thing he hasn’t been, is anywhere near the player he was expected to be.
Castillo’s 2016 spring has been totally unimpressive. A slash line of .213/.275/.234. He’s got one extra-base hit, a double. Castillo has stolen one base. He hasn’t done enough of anything to warrant a starting job, and at this point the Red Sox would be foolish to even allow him to start over Young against lefties.
Mookie Betts is definitely the starting right fielder. Jackie Bradley Jr’s glove combined with his exceptional hitting this spring makes him a no-brainer to start in center field. Castillo looks a lot like a fifth outfielder or perhaps even a Pawtucket starter that will be paid over $11 million this season.
That’s a lot of money for a now 28 year old who has yet to have even one solid season in the majors.
No matter what the Red Sox thought they were getting when they inked Castillo to his contract back in August of 2014, it was definitely more than this.
Castillo didn’t have to become Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig (although that would have been totally cool if he had) but he certainly was expected to be able to beat out Brock Holt and Chris Young for major league playing time.
Can Castillo figure out a path to more playing time while spending most of his time riding the pine?
It won’t be easy. He’s going to have to wait for an injury, or a prolonged slump from either Betts, Bradley or Holt.
Even if those scenarios do present themselves, they’re far from permanent.
Castillo’s playing time on future Red Sox squads is also a question mark. Top prospect Andrew Benintendi looks like a safe bet to compete for a major league job, perhaps as early as next season.
Tuesday morning Fangraphs.com explored the possibility of trading Castillo. Several teams are listed, with the San Diego Padres being most prominently mentioned.
The Red Sox have a lot of minor league talent, and that’s not a bad thing. They’ve also got a growing number of players who perform poorly and are due a fair amount of money. Is Rusney Castillo another Allen Craig, Pablo Sandoval or Rick Porcello?
It is beginning to look like that may be the case.