The reports were that the Red Sox would not be denied Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, and they turned out to be true, with Boston inking the 27-year-old to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal, the largest ever for a Cuban free agent. It's not actually a seven-year deal, however, as it begins in 2014, but there's an important reason behind going seven with just a month left this year.
The Red Sox have plenty of room under the luxury tax to absorb a full season's worth of this contract's average annual value of $10.36 million, especially after trading away Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy without bringing in anywhere near as much money back in return. Taking that hit for a month -- which also made Castillo happy to join the Sox, since he wanted to play in the majors before the year ended -- allowed the Red Sox to lower the AAV for the entire deal. Castillo could be disappointing, but he'll only cost around $10 million per year for luxury tax purposes. If he's great, however, he's a huge bargain, as $10 million for a team with the space under the luxury tax that Boston has to play with is relatively nothing.
It's a risk signing a player with no MLB experience -- who also hasn't played since 2012 thanks to both his escape from Cuba and a suspension in 2013 for an attempted escape -- to a long-term deal for real money, but the Red Sox have less than $100 million committed to their 2015 team, and most of the roster is already set. Adding $10 million for Castillo doesn't interfere with their plans, as they have the room to add someone like Cole Hamels in a trade while signing James Shields as a free agent. They won't necessarily do that, but the financial capabilities are there, and they will only become more apparent with time.
Prospects who are expected to be quality big-league contributors are either already in Boston (Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez) or on the way (Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson). The multi-year deals for Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli are up after 2015, and they might already have replacements on board for both thanks to this July's trades for Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, as well as the signing of Castillo. It's a risk, but a calculated one, and the Red Sox managed to lessen the luxury tax implications without having to give Castillo an absurd number of years as a compromise.
As for what Castillo will be, that's still up in the air, like it is for anyone who has yet to play in the majors. His combination of speed and defense with what talent evaluators are calling "above-average power" makes him intriguing at the least, though, and the Red Sox clearly believe there's something here, as did many other high-quality organizations like the Giants, Tigers, Cubs and Yankees, who were also in the bidding up until the end.