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cuba featureThe brief run-down for folks who haven’t been following the Rusney Castillo story: the 27-year-old outfielder is a Cuban defector, and a free agent. Some evaluators believe he’ll be an impact bat at the top of the order, while others believe he might settle into a complementary role. He’s 5’9″ and 205 lbs, but is believed to have top-end speed, and developing power. Because he’s not subject to an IFA signing restrictions, he might get more than $30 million. Maybe much more. The Cubs, among other teams, watched him at a public workout in Miami, and then had him into Chicago for a private workout. They probably like him a bit.

Castillo was expected to sort through offers this weekend, and possibly come out with a list of finalists early this week – with the potential to choose a team any day now.

According to Jon Morosi, there may already be a list of five finalists for Castillo, and it’s the names you might expect if you’ve been following this story closely: the Cubs, the Tigers, the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Phillies. To be sure, Morosi doesn’t describe these five teams as “finalists,” but instead as the teams he’s hearing the most connected to Castillo. Given the earlier report of whittling the suitors down to finalists between Friday and today, I’m just connecting some dots.

Morosi adds that Castillo could get six years and $50 million, which would put his deal ahead of the one Yasiel Puig received (7 years, $42 million), but behind that of Jose Abreu (6 years, $68 million), and there is at least some push to get him signed before September so that he could theoretically contribute to the playoff chase and be eligible for the postseason. I still think it’s a stretch that he could do that after a year off from competitive ball, and, among the five listed teams, only the Yankees and Tigers are actually in playoff contention. Castillo might sign before September, but I’m not sure the playoff implications will be the deciding factor.

Given the opening in center field, the available dollars, and the teeny-tiny chance he could contribute in the playoffs, I’d have to give the edge on this to the Tigers. The Yankees are right there, though, remember that each new deal they sign costs them a 40% luxury tax hit, so, effectively, they’re paying $1.40 for ever $1 the other teams spend. That’s not enough to deter the Yankees, obviously, but it factors into the equation.

Peter Gammons mentions that point in a larger piece (on a variety of topics), adding that his sense is Castillo could get anywhere from $40 million to $70 million.

Remember on the price tag: it’s easy to focus on the big Cuban stars who’ve signed to deals that are now viewed as a steal, but there have been plenty of Cuban (and other international players) players who did not become superstars. Maybe Castillo is a stud. But don’t presume that he will be just because Abreu and Puig have blown up.

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