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cuba featureCuban outfielder Rusney Castillo worked out in Miami for a little under three hours yesterday, and the baseball world descended to see what was up. Castillo, 27, is a free agent, and is viewed by some as an impact-potential center fielder with speed and a little bit of pop.

Some 28 MLB teams were represented there yesterday, so every team – except two (who are you!?) – is doing its due diligence on Castillo, who could be the next great Cuban player. Given the success of the upper tier Cuban players in recent years, nobody wants to be the team that completely whiffs on the next guy. Of course, no one seems to remember the many lesser Cuban players who don’t wind up stars, but the fear of missing to the upside seems to be stronger right now than the fear of overpaying. Thus, there’s this:

How crazy? Well, for a guy that some believe might wind up a fourth/fifth outfielder (while others, mentioned above, believe he could be an impact talent), $25 to $35 million is possible, and maybe even more, according to sources of Ken Davidoff. No one seems to think Castillo is a Puig/Abreu-caliber talent, but given that those guys are worth so much more than their contracts, you can see why the bidding on Castillo – and a chance at the next guy – could get a little “crazy.”

Baseball America has a thorough write up on how Castillo looked yesterday, which is well worth a read. It’s hard to know how much you can tell from a showcase, but Castillo showed his great speed, as well as quite a bit of power in batting practice. He also hit off of a “live” pitcher (an undrafted D-II pitcher), and showed quite well. From the sound of things, folks in attendance liked his bat (though it sounds like the potential for swing-and-miss issues showed up with quite a few whiffs against the live pitcher).

I expect we’ll hear a great deal more this week on Castillo, and on which teams are most aggressively pursuing him. Not all 28 teams in attendance yesterday will be in on Castillo – some where likely there to confirm that they aren’t interested at the expected price – and we may not find out for sure how interested the Cubs were this time around (after a series of high profile misses over the last two years, it’s possible the Cubs will keep their pursuit extremely quiet, unless they want and land him).

We know that the Cubs were one of the teams watching Castillo yesterday, and we know that he is the type of player they are looking for right now. But we don’t know what they think of Castillo, specifically, and we don’t know what they think of his expected price tag.

For my part, even at $40 million, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t worth the risk. If the Cubs believe the true downside is a 4th/5th outfielder, but believe impact starter upside is at least 50% possible, the math tends to work out. A decent 4th/5th outfielder could be worth 4 to 6 wins over the course of six years, which, alone, could make Castillo worth $24 to $36 million (at $6 million per win). And if Castillo proves to be a three-win player per year over a six year deal? That’s worth $108 million. So, if the Cubs believed it was 50% chance of good backup, and 50% chance of three-win player, I could at least make the argument that six years and $60 to $70 million is not unreasonable.

Don’t take too much from those back-of-the-napkin calculations, because they are not designed to put any hard and fast numbers on these things. Instead, they are simply designed to demonstrate how the investment may not be as much as it seems, *IF* the Cubs like Castillo.

And that’s the part that remains to be seen. None of the numbers matter if the Cubs have evaluated Castillo and determined he’s not a guy worth pursuing.

Also remaining to be seen? How many other teams like Castillo. Remember, even if the Cubs want him, it’s not a 50/50 proposition where it’s the Cubs versus “the other team.” It’s the Cubs versus “lots of other teams,” and they might be willing to be just as aggressive.

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