Rusney Castillo free agency: Orioles among teams scouting Cuban outfielder

Dennis Grombkowski

The Orioles have been placing more of a focus on their international scouting and are now targeting one of Cuba's top outfielders.

The Baltimore Orioles will scout Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo on Saturday in the Dominican Republic, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.

Castillo defected from Cuba in December with the goal of playing for a Major League Baseball club. He had previously been suspended by both the Cuban national team and the Serie Nacional for a "violation of the code of ethics of revolutionary baseball." Presumably, he had been caught attempting to defect earlier and was being punished for it.

Because he played five years with Ciego de Avila in the Serie Nacional and is 26 years old, Castillo will have no restrictions in free agency and is not subject to baseball's international signing bonus pools.

Over his five seasons, Castillo has hit .319/.383/.516 with 51 home runs in 360 games. After eclipsing 20 home runs in two consecutive seasons and hitting .342/.408/.574 with 27 stolen bases in the 2011-12 season, Castillo struggled some in his last year in Cuba. He hit just six home runs with a 770 OPS over 68 games before choosing to defect.

Standing at just 5'9" and 185 pounds, Castillo is best known for his speed and has been one of the premiere base stealers in Cuba over his career. While he is primarily a center fielder, he has also played some second and third baseand could be seen as a useful utility player for major league teams.

The Orioles have been active in the Cuban market recently. Henry Urrutia is currently one of the team's top prospects and had a brief call-up to the majors last season while Dariel Alvarez has hit very well in a brief time with the Orioles organization thus far. Urrutia is expected to compete for a roster spot in spring training.

Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said at the team's FanFest on Saturday the team's international scouting department would be a big focus moving forward as Baltimore hopes to continue competing in the always-tough AL East.

The Orioles will be the second known team to have scouted Castillo at a workout. The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly looked into him last month.

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