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cubaIt seems like, with increasing rapidity, the top players in Cuba are defecting from the island in the hopes of making their way to a professional career in MLB. What may have started (in recent years) with Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Jorge Soler, and Yasiel Puig, is now continuing rapidly with Jose Abreu, Miguel Gonzalez, Raicel Iglesias, and Erisbel Arruebarruena, among others.*

Now, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that another top Cuban has defected with the intention of coming to the United States as soon as possible: 26-year-old outfielder Rusney Castillo.

Badler’s piece has a short scouting report on Castillo, who can play center field, second base, and third base. He’s a shorter guy with speed and a little bit of pop, and he’s put up solid numbers in Cuba’s highest professional league, though it sounds like some teams aren’t sure that he’s a starter in the big leagues.

Given the Cubs’ current outfield construction – a mix of Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, and a 5th outfielder – it’s easy to see how they might get involved in a 26-year-old with some upside. Castillo would not be subject to any signing restrictions, and arguably would not block any of the Cubs’ top upcoming outfield prospects, who figure to be at least a couple years away (in other words, that falls into the “you cross that bridge when you come to it” world of problems).

Given the Cubs’ slow-play approach to the offseason, and their rebuilding-oriented focus, Castillo becoming available in February or March could play into their hands, given that other suitors might have long already locked up their cash and/or positions. That’s not to say there’s any indication yet that the Cubs are interested, but a later-arriving free agent is probably better for them than one who was on the market in November.

As Castillo’s situation plays out over the course of the next few months, we’ll keep an eye on whether the Cubs prove to be interested.

*(Partial aside: while I won’t presume to know, at a global scale, the relative baseball talent between Cuba and the Dominican Republic, consider the implications if a new Dominican Republic-caliber pool of baseball talent appeared from the ether. It’s difficult to appropriately articulate the impact on MLB team development/creation, and it’s a interesting thought experiment as we enter this phase of more and more apparent Cuban defections. Are the Cubs poised to take advantage of this market? Should that be the heaviest focus of available dollars?)

  • Jono

    We’ve definitely seen the end of Cuba’s interntional dominance

  • DarthHater

    Obama handshake with Raul Castro was finalization of White Sox-Abreu deal.
    — Die hard

    • mjhurdle

      ha!

  • dumbledoresacubsfan

    Not so much related to this guy, but would the Dodgers be interested in acquiring Samardzija? I doubt it, but could a Samardzija/Sweeney deal land us Kemp/Zach Lee?

    Throw in Schierholz if it gets the deal done–then sign this guy or somehow come away with Choo or put another package together with the phils for Brown/Papelbon and take on the salary?

    • YourResidentJag

      They’re not interested. They want to hold on to their young players. The only way I’ve heard that they would trade them–David Price.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      They’ve recently said and told Kemp that he will not be traded FWIW.

      • mdavis

        why do people continuosly want to give up more with shark? other teams need to meet the cubs price. otherwise dont bother.

  • Greg

    Cuba could be Theo’s free agent market for young players

  • Jon

    My theory is that these so called Cubans are really Dominicans trying to pass off as Cuban baseball players.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Nicely reference.

  • YourResidentJag

    For anyone interested, Jim Callis was on the Spiegel and Holmes show yesterday. Says if he had to would trade Soler for SP: It’s at the end of segment 3: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mcneil-and-spiegel-show/id452998259

    • Jon

      If Soler was progressing according to plan, he would have more trade value. But he’s got a big contract(relatively speaking) and could still be in high A to start the year.

      • YourResidentJag

        One thing I found interesting in the interview was how raw Callis feels Cuban hitters are today. Feels that Cuban SP isn’t up to par to what it apparently was when hitters were facing in it the 90s.

    • Justin

      Honestly, I am not sure that Soler has much if any trade value. I still love his upside, but the thing prospects have that teams love is cheap control in the majors their first several yrs, and Soler is making $3 Mill a year while in High A. And I think overall he’s been a bit disappointing, although a lot of it has been fluky stuff..

      • YourResidentJag

        Well, being disappointing or risky is precisely why Callis would trade him if he had to.

        • Justin

          Right, considering Soler’s contract I don’t even think it’s close on who the Cubs would prefer to deal for top flight pitching of the top 4. And I am not trying to hate on Soler at all. If he some how puts everything together he could be the best of the bunch, but his contract makes him way less appealing than most prospects.

          • aaronb

            Agreed,

            Big contract, injury concerns and an .810 OPS while still not graduating out of A ball. My feeling is that if he was some other teams prospect. Most people around here wouldn’t like him much.

          • http://bleachernation.com woody

            I see Soler moving on a parallel path with Almora. Those two guys are buddies. They both need a complete season in A ball. Unless they catch fire you won’t see them this year.

      • Jon

        I don’t want to get into this again, but Scouts could note his character concerns when evaluating him as a prospect.

        If he doesn’t dominate AA this year, and stay healthy and out of trouble, it’s time to worry. He’s about a year and few months younger than Puig, so it’s time for him to show it against high competition.

  • FarmerTanColin

    You think Cuba has talent? Wait until the North Koreans start to defect. If they could only get past that army…and ideology.

    • YourResidentJag

      There could be essentially good players from anywhere if they dedicated themselves to playing baseball.

      • Jon

        I’m not trusting any scouting report from Kim Jong Un

        • FarmerTanColin

          That Kim Jong Un is the whole package. He’s like Mike Trout with more speed, power, and can throw harder than Chapman with a better curveball than Wainwright.

        • Boccabella12

          You know Kim Jong Un batted 1.000 in little league, with grand slams in every at-bat. Even when he led off.

          • Bilbo161

            I doubt there are any good ballplayers in north korea. They have very limited food and the government basically stays rich walking all over them and killing them if they complain. I even read reports, some while back that the population is much shorter and weaker than those in neighboring countries. Not a good situation for developing athletes.

      • FarmerTanColin

        Dedication and the genetic aptitude. I bet there are a couple gems in N Korea. Now I wonder if you sequenced every MLB player’s genome, if there would be some sort of pattern to identify some predestine baseball ability. This is the next level of scouting. Maybe the Ricketts will stop being cheap and start doing this!

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Do they even play baseball in North Korea? If they did, why aren’t they a part of the WBC? (If we play Cuba, and we field teams from both RoC and PRC, I’m sure we’d field a team from the DPRK if available and decent.) Wikipedia only shows them in playing in 2 significant tournaments, the last was over 20 years ago. No Olympics?

    • cub1

      small strike zones, they could probably draw a lot of walks

  • Bluz Cluz

    It appears he’ll hire Tanaka’s agent and ask for 7yrs/$380 million.

    • FarmerTanColin

      Jay-Z will get him 450 million.

  • Cub Fan Dan

    Every time you post an article on a Cuban player, my mind immediately goes to Fredo Corleone showing up there with a bag of cash.

    • Jono

      Godfather references must be accurate. It was a briefcase

  • Jono

    Random comment of the day, another comment above reminded me of this

    It turns out that Jay Z’s Roc Nation clients have CAA doing the negogiations with GMs. There was a discussion about this when Cano signed with the Mariners.

    • Jono

      ammatures negotiate. The pros negogiate.

      • Jono

        ammateurs….. I’m getting better

        • Jono

          amateurs? Good lord!

  • itzscott

    I’m sure Cuban players and their “handlers” all know that there’s a mystique surrounding them as far as ability and there’s a premium to be earned because of it.

    For that reason alone, I’m very skeptical of all the Cuban players who are suddenly “defecting” and they may not be all that good.

    Beware the hype!

    For every Cespedes or Puig there’s likely many, many more Concepcion’s

    • http://deleted Bluz Cluz

      You mean, kind of like baseball. For every Clayton Kershaw, there are 100 Chris Volstads.

      • itzscott

        Bad example….

        The probabilities are substantially better simply because the scouting is so much more reliable, as are the stats, as are the costs…. as opposed to Cuban players.

  • cms0101

    The Phillies designated 23 year old catcher Sebastian Valle for assignment today. Seems like a better option to have in AAA than some of the retreads we’ve added as backups. He was a prospect that has stalled a bit, but still young and solid defensively. Someobody will grab him for sure. I hope it’s the Cubs.

  • Jon

    If Choo isn’t happy with this long term offers, I’d offer something like 2/55 see if he bites, he could always test FA again after that.

    • Jon

      Some these agents need to be fired though..Nelson Cruz turning down 5/75 is the most asinine thing i have ever heard.

    • Dustin S

      Just read Choo turned down $140/7 years from Yankees…yikes. Boras pushing his luck.

      • Dustin S

        oops $140M, $140 would probably not get it done lol.

      • Jono

        Wow

  • Spoda17

    I’m not really sold on the international players thing… we tend to think (most people anyway) that if they are above average in their respective leagues, they are superior ball players.

    Even with some initial limited success [we] are all in… I think Cespedes still has a lot to prove, and so does Solier and Puig. Yeah, give them a chance, but I have not seen enough results that would indicate if you are a foreign player and you come the US you are worth all of this money.

    Just because something is new and shinny, doesn’t mean it is superior… I’m not suggesting that’s what Brett is saying, I mean the baseball FOs across the league.

    • Jono

      I don’t think there’s a premium put on guys just for being foreign. There is, however, the factor that a 25 year old free agent will be worth more than a 31 year old free agent simply due to age. Most American players don’t hit free agency until later in the career while international free agents often come over at younger ages.

  • frank

    Anyone else see the story that Choo turned down a 7 year $140 million offer by the Yankees? One source said that Boras is looking for Ellsbury money–7 years and $153 million.

  • You got bats, we got Wood. Travis Wood.

    Hmmmm a 26 year old outfielder from Cuba? Sounds like that would fit the Cubs plans, and I believe that we have a need for another outfielder. Wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs pursue this guy.

  • josh ruiter

    I’m all for signing this cuban kid…but not as a starting piece right out the gate.

  • #1lahairfan

    How is his defense at third? If it’s at least average I’m intrigued.

  • Nick

    When/Where will we see the international prospects we signed earlier in the year?

  • Stinky Pete

    I imagine if/when they can dominate the international leagues they’re in they get a ticket to Arizona or Boise.

    Probably 2015 at the earliest.

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