The search for the center fielder of the future in the Red Sox organization is over.

The search for the center fielder of the future in the Red Sox organization is over.

With this week’s $72.5 million commitment to Cuban star Rusney Castillo, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is making it clear that the organization feels Castillo, along with help from others, will be the answer to replacing the dynamic Jacoby Ellbsury for the rest of the decade.

“We’ve always felt like in order for us to be good, we need two center fielders on the team [and] he’s a center fielder,” Cherington said at the press conference after Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Mariners at Fenway. “We have to secure a work visa for him. That process will start here this week, and assuming we can get through that, we’ll get him into workouts and try to get him into games this season — 2014 season — and that would be in center field.

“Obviously, given the commitment, we think he can be a really good player for us for a long time.

Cherington feels Castillo, along with the likes of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, can fill the void left with Ellsbury’s departure.

“This is an exciting player,” Cherington said. “He’s got a great combination of skills, defensive ability, speed, solid power. He’s got a really strong track record in Cuba and we’re excited to add him to the organization. We feel like he can be a big part of winning Red Sox teams for a long time.

“He’s a center fielder. He’s got a lot of skills. We think he has the chance to impact the game in a number of different ways. He runs well, has a good solid throwing arm, solid power, good offensive track record in Cuba and international play. We see him as a very good major league player and part of a winning team here in Boston.”

Castillo, 27, hit .319 with 75 doubles, 11 triples, 51 home runs, 99 walks, 256 runs scored, and 76 stolen bases in 360 games over five seasons in Cuba’€™s major league, Serie Nacional. He spent all five seasons with his hometown team, Ciego de Avila, and posted a career .383 on-base percentage, .516 slugging percentage, and .899 OPS while appearing primarily in center and right field.

“This someone who we identified or recognized in Cuba, in international play and things like that,” Cherington said. “So we’ve been evaluating him. We’ve had several scouts see him over a number of years and build some history that way. So you can recognize the bat speed, the swing path, the power — the ball comes off his bat really well, etc. And then we have spent quite a bit of time mining whatever data is available to us out of Cuba — performance data — and we feel like we are getting more and more precise in translating that and figure out what it means. Obviously, there have been recent examples of mature, high-profile guys coming out of Cuba, and we’ve seen what those transitions have looked like.”

The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Castillo last played in Cuba during the 2012-13 season and hit .274 with six doubles, two triples, six homers, and 29 RBI over 68 contests in which he struck out fewer times (29) than he walked (31).

During the 2010-11 season, the right-handed batter set career highs with 22 home runs and 95 RBI. The following season, 2011-12, he hit .342 in 113 games with 60 extra-base hits, including 21 homers, helping Ciego de Avila to the Serie Nacional Championship.

“We’re certainly really excited about this signing,” Cherington said. “We’ve gotten a chance to know Rusney a lot over the last several weeks and then before that, we had seen him play, first in Amsterdam in 2011 and then again in Taiwan in 2012 and of course, over the last several weeks since he’s been in Florida, we’ve got a chance to know him even better.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent who represented outfielder Rusney Castillo in the free agent process that resulted in his client signing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Saturday, offered an outline of the trajectory that greeted his client’s arrival in

Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent who represented outfielder Rusney Castillo in the free agent process that resulted in his client signing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Saturday, offered an outline of the trajectory that greeted his client’s arrival in Major League Baseball.

Rusney Castillo joins Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to sign his seven-year, $72.5 million contract. (Roc Nation)

Rusney Castillo joins Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to sign his seven-year, $72.5 million contract. (Roc Nation)

The free agent process began in earnest on July 26, when Castillo held a showcase for interested teams; 28 of the 30 clubs attended. Based on what Castillo showed that day, interest in his services did not abate.

“The interest coming out of that workout was really extraordinary — something we haven’t seen before in a typical free agent process,” said Van Wagenen. “As we started to narrow the field, we knew that we couldn’t have private, individual workouts for all 28 teams involved in that and still be able to keep a pace where we could sign and reach an agreement in a short period of time to still allow him to sign a 2014 contract. So, effectively we used economic interest as a narrowing scope to decide who got the private workouts and the private showcases. So we narrowed that list to about 13 teams, and then ultimately we narrowed that again to eight teams that received private workouts and extensive dialogue.”

From the beginning of the process, the Red Sox — under VP/player personnel Allard Baird — were among the most aggressive teams.

“Allard was really aggressive and really genuine in his approach and his level of interest that the Red Sox had. That came through to us, that gave us the insight that we felt like the Red Sox were going to be serious contenders,” said Van Wagenen. “As time played out, their level of interest continued to stay steady. Other members of the Red Sox organization became more involved, naturally. And then once we had our private workout, it was very clear that the Red Sox were going to be in one of the final positions as we went through it.”

Even when the Sox acquired a pair of outfielders at the trade deadline, adding Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, Van Wagenen didn’t get the sense that Boston’s interest in his client had waned.

“I think that once a team has identified true interest in the player, not just in the short-term but also the long-term, I don’t think short-term transactions or specific player transactions will necessarily wane that level of interest,” said Van Wagenen.

The process of defining the value of Castillo via free agency was an interesting one. Instead of defining Castillo’s value relative to that of other players from Cuba, the agent used past free agents with comparable skill sets to define what kind of financial guarantee Castillo might deserve. It is worth noting that Castillo received less than, say, Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and B.J. Upton (five years, $75 million), but more in guaranteed dollars (if not average annual salary in all cases) than Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Angel Pagan (four years, $40 million), Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million) and other recent free agent center fielders.

“I think this was actually an interesting process, because from the beginning, we got the sense that it wasn’t going to be valued simply as a Cuban market contract, but rather it was going to be a contract that was set in the context of what talent with premium speed, premium defensive ability and potential for plus power, what the marketplace was for players with those skills,” said Van Wagenen. “What we found was that there was a premium placed on those players with that dynamic skill set in past free agent marketplaces, and especially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or more importantly in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched his skill set, and so it became a matter of how do you gauge his talent with respect to the market for free agent players and what’s the appropriate level of discount that you might take for a player that truly has never had a track record within Major League Baseball.”

Still, that discount wasn’t going to have to be extreme. After all, the level of interest in players from Cuba has been immense, for a number of reasons. They are coming to the big leagues in the middle of (or, as in the 27-year-old Castillo’s case, right before) their primes, as opposed to MLB free agents, whose best days are often behind them. They do not requiring a signing club to part with a draft pick as compensation, as elite major league free agents (who receive qualifying offers from their prior clubs) do. And there is now a track record of players from Cuba making successful and immediate transitions to the big leagues as impact players who don’t require time in the minors.

The result has been a succession of quickly escalating guarantees to Cuban players. Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million deal; Jose Abreu reached a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox; and Castillo raised the bar with his $72 million guarantee.

“Two things: One, just a few years ago, players weren’t getting paid what they’re getting now, so the economics have escalated across the game in general. But the opportunity to get free agents with premium talent at young ages in their prime is rare. The scarcity of that talent has been fueling the marketplace,” said Van Wagenen. “The success that the Cuban players have had immediately upon signing contracts, I think that’s been a very lucrative combination.”

Money and organizational fit were the driving forces behind Castillo’s interest in other teams. However, the Sox’ acquisition of Cespedes was unquestionably a plus when Castillo considered making the transition to the States.

“It’s always helpful to have eyes towards what the future clubhouse environment would be. I think Cespedes’ success as well as [Yasiel Puig] and [Aroldis Chapman] and other players that have come as well, especially Abreu of late, it gave him tremendous confidence that he could succeed here,” said Van Wagenen. “But as far as comfort level here, I think that once the Cespedes trade happened, it electrified the opportunity as we were narrowing our choices to a decision, because then it gave a tangible comrade that he could have in this clubhouse.”

On the field, Castillo was open-minded about his potential role with a club. While he was primarily an outfielder in Cuba for the last several years, he worked out at short and second (the positions where he got his start in Cuba’s Serie Nacional) in his showcase. He would have been open to moving back to the infield, but with the Sox, he never had to consider that outcome.

“Positional preference didn’t lead the day in terms of where he decided to play. I thin the opportunity and the way he fit into a roster construction moving forward was something that he looked at,” said Van Wagenen. “So for some teams that had interest in him in the infield, we wanted to have a better understanding of where him playing in the infield, how that would apply short-term and long-term to their roster construction. I think those discussions were had, but I think it was clear here that from the beginning they wanted him to be an outfielder.

That, in turn, will offer Castillo a sense of place in the coming years. So, too, will the environment that he encountered for the first time on Saturday at Fenway Park.

“When you see the environment here that exists here in Boston every day, with a team that isn’t in first place right now, but you’re still selling out the stadiums with a real energy and electricity in the ballparks, that’s what he’s used to playing in Cuba all the time. That is his normal,” said Van Wagenen. “It would be odd for him to go to another city where they’re not filling the stadium for a typical day. So I think this feels like what a baseball environment is supposed to be, and I think it’s very natural for him.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

For the second night in a row, the Red Sox squandered a three-run lead to the Mariners at

082314_soxlose-web

Yoenis Cespedes takes stock of the Red Sox‘ seven-run yield in the fourth inning. (Getty Images)

For the second night in a row, the Red Sox squandered a three-run lead to the Mariners at Fenway Park.

However, this collapse came much earlier than the ninth inning.

The culprit Saturday was Red Sox starter Brandon Workman, who was tagged for 10 hits and seven earned runs in a nightmare of a fourth inning that proved to be the difference maker in a 7-3 Mariners win.

The Red Sox have now lost seven games in a row,€“ marking the second-longest losing streak for the club this year, behind only 10 straight contests from May 15 to May 25.

Boston got off to a promising start Saturday afternoon against Seattle, scoring a run off of Mariners southpaw starter Chris Young in each of the first three innings to build up a 3-0 cushion for Workman.

The lead would not last for long, however, as Workman gave up back-to-back singles to open the fourth before Mariners right fielder drove in Seattle’€™s first run with an RBI double to left field.

After striking out Endy Chavez for the first out in the inning, Chris Taylor cut the deficit to one run after taking a 1-0 fastball into right field for an RBI single. Seattle would then tie the game in the next at-bat, as Workman would deliver a wild pitch that allowed Chris Denorfia to cross the plate to force a 3-3 game.

The frame was far from over for Workman, who then allowed two more singles to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead before Dustin Ackley knocked the Sox righty out of the contest with a three-run home run into the right field bleachers to give Seattle a four-run lead.

Workman, who was pulled from the game after just 3 1/3 innings of work, is now in the midst of a career-long 8-game losing streak that began on June 27 against the Yankees. Indeed, his eight losses in as many appearances represent the longest such streak by a Red Sox pitcher since Red Ruffing absorbed the loss in nine straight appearances in 1929.

The damage was mostly done after the fourth, as neither team crossed the plate after Seattle’s seven-run outburst. After compiling seven hits through the first four innings, Boston’s lineup only managed to string together two hits over the final five frames.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 56-73 on the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Issues with fatigue once again seemed to creep up on Workman, who seemed to run out of gas in the fourth. Before his breakdown, Workman looked solid against Seattle, giving up no no runs off of three hits while walking one and fanning three in three innings of work.

Workman, who has been roughed up for 14 earned runs in his last 15 2/3 innings of work (8.04 EA), previously had his start skipped in the rotation almost two weeks ago in order to give the 26-year-old more time to recoup between outings. It will be interesting to see if Red Sox manager John Farrell takes a similar approach once again after Workman’s latest outing, or if the team considers moving him to the bullpen down the stretch.

– In what has been a recurring theme this season, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on a number of scoring opportunities Saturday. Boston had a chance to break the game open in the first inning, loading the bases with two outs and a run already in, but Will Middlebrooks popped up to Young to end the threat.

Later in the game, Boston had a chance to quickly eat away at Seattle’s four-run lead in the fourth, as Dustin Pedroia singled and both David Ortiz and Yoenis Cespedes walked to load the bases with two outs for Mike Napoli. Facing reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, Napoli was whiffed on a 97 mph fastball to end the inning.

Over their seven-game skid, Boston is batting just .070 (4-for-57) with runners in scoring position.

– David Ortiz saw two offensive streaks come to a close Saturday afternoon, as the Sox designated hitter popped out to second base in the first, snapping his stretch of reaching base in nine consecutive plate appearances entering the game. Ortiz ultimately finished the game 0-for-2 with a walk, putting a close to his run of reaching base at least four times in four consecutive games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Yoenis Cespedes showcased his total array of tools Saturday, making plays at the plate, on the basepaths and on the field.

The Red Sox left fielder drove in Brock Holt with a sacrifice fly in the first to put the Red Sox on the board, while later adding a double in the third. Cespedes showed off his wheels on the two-base hit, advancing to third on the play after a fielding error by Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson.

Cespedes made his presence felt out in the outfield as well. With runners on first and second for the Mariners in the second inning, Jesus Sucre singled on a ground ball to left field. Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager attempted to score from second on the play, but was easily cut down by Cespedes, who fired a strike to catcher David Ross. It was Cespedes’ 14th outfield assist of the year, most in the majors.

Dustin Pedroia had a productive night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a ground-rule double in the first inning. Pedroia has successfully recorded a hit in 18 of his last 22 games, batting (32-for-94) during that stretch.

Alex Wilson helped stopped the bleeding in relief of Workman, holding the Mariners to no runs and no hits over 3 2/3 innings while striking out the side in the sixth inning, Wilson has emerged as a reliable option out of the bullpen for Boston this season, posting a 1.26 ERA in seven appearances this season. The 27-year-old’s impressive showing this season will certainly make him a prime candidate for a permanent spot in the bullpen next season.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Half an inning after Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was smoked on the inside of his left forearm by Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush, Red Sox reliever Alex Wilson drilled Mariners star

Half an inning after Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was smoked on the inside of his left forearm by Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush, Red Sox reliever Alex Wilson drilled Mariners star Robinson Cano on the backside with a 93 mph first pitch. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez immediately issued warnings to both dugouts.

Ortiz stayed in the game after receiving a brief visit from a Red Sox team trainer while doubled over in pain behind the plate. Cano, likewise, stayed in the game, though he perambulated to first at a languorous pace.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

For those intrigued by a glimpse of what Rusney Castillo looks like as a baseball player, JAY-Z’s Life+Times channel on Youtube produced the following look at the Red Sox‘ new outfielder:

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox announced the signing of outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal that begins immediately and runs through 2020. Here is the breakdown of the deal: