Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo signs minor league contract with Nationals

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is back in the United States, having signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, according to the team’s transaction log. It doesn’t appear the deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Castile, 34 years old, 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 in 76 plate appearances. He also played 17 games with the Rakuten farm team of the Eastern Japan League.

Most recently, Castillo adapted for Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific Winter League this offseason and posted a .727 OPS in 13 games (60 plate appearances) with the club.

Originally from Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Castillo signed with the Red Sox as a coveted international free agent in August 2014. Touted as one of the best players available at the time, Castillo – then 27 years old – signed a lucrative seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Boston.

This blockbuster contract turned out not to work out for the player and the team. Castillo made his debut for the Sox in late September of the 2014 season and showed promise as he went down .333/.400/.528 with two homers and six RBIs over a brief 10-game sample.

The following year, Castillo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for the first time in late May. He was fired in June, but spent the rest of the season in the majors after being recalled in late July, although he did so while struggling to the tune of a .647 OPS.

Less than halfway through the 2016 campaign, Castillo was dropped outright from Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20 after being granted the waivers. He made his first training on Opening Day and only played nine games for the Sox that season. Needless to say, the decision to drop him from the 40-man roster was pivotal.

That being the case because Castillo played the remainder 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 towards the Red Sox’s luxury tax threshold. If he were added to the 40-man again, the rest of his contract would then count towards the threshold.

Financially speaking, having Castillo on the 40-man roster wasn’t in the Sox’s best interest. And despite solid production for the PawSox and regular invites to big league camp in the spring, Castillo became a free agent at the end of the 2020 season after going more than four years without an MLB plaque appearance.

In total, Castillo hit a disappointing .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 in 99 games (337 plate appearances) during his three seasons with the Red Sox.

Now Castillo will look to regain his place in the United States. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound player turns 35 in July and could provide the Nationals with intriguing depth of field for veterans in the upper minors for the 2022 season.

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