Yesterday, we learned that the Chicago Cubs worked out free agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo at Wrigley Field. Indeed, they may also have put on something of a sales pitch, given that they mocked up a sign for him on the right field LED board:
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 6, 2014
It’s interesting, by the way, that the Cubs worked Castillo out at Wrigley Field, rather than, say, down in Mesa. Many other teams have reportedly done their workouts in their Spring Training facilities. Meaningful? Maybe not. But it could be another sign that the Cubs wanted to add a little “selling” to the workout.
Up next, it sounds like Castillo will work out for the Yankees in Florida tomorrow (New York Post). Castillo, 27, has reportedly already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox, with the Mariners and Orioles also interested in getting a closer look.
That same New York Post piece indicates that sources say Castillo’s price range is somewhere in the $35 to $45 million area. That’s about what I would have expected, given the inflation we’re seeing in the upper tier Cuban market, and given the range of projections for Castillo. If he becomes an impact guy, it’s a bargain. If he settles into a complementary role, you’ve overpaid by a lot. Still, larger market teams can afford to take these shots and be wrong. Can the Cubs? We’ll see if they’re getting there.
Mark Gonzales’ piece on the Castillo workout notes that the Cubs should have “plenty” of money to go after the outfielder, and Patrick Mooney writes that the Cubs have been “very impressed” with Castillo’s upside.
While the bulk of the Cubs’ offseason funds will – and should – be dedicated to starting pitching, they were always going to need at least one bat, even with the youngsters on the way. With the infield crowded, the bat was going to have to come behind the plate (almost impossible to find, and there’s still upside in Welington Castillo’s bat), or in the outfield. Castillo, if the Cubs like him, would fit the bill. And with a free agent outfield roster that is extremely thin on impact types, Castillo may be the Cubs’ best bet for an upgrade, short of going the trade route.
How does the roster shake out if the Cubs add Castillo? Well, for now, I’d advise against worrying too much about it. Even in a dream scenario where Arismendy Alcantara clearly establishes himself as an outfielder you cannot unseat, and where Jorge Soler is clearly ready to rock in 2015, there’s still an open outfield spot (with guys like Coghlan/Sweeney/Ruggiano as possible excellent 4th outfielders). That assumes that Castillo is a clear starter, and assumes that the Cubs have done nothing in the infield (in terms of trades). Maybe Kris Bryant comes up and ultimately needs an outfield spot. And maybe Albert Almora blossoms rapidly, and is ready to play center field late in 2015.
All of these things are dream scenarios, where the worst outcome is that the Cubs have more quality assets than they can play. That’s a good thing. Cross that bridge when it comes.
Because in a more realistic scenario, the Cubs will absolutely need another bat in the outfield next year if they want to be a .500 or better club (and I think they can be). Castillo could be that guy.
Of course, lots of teams are thinking the same thing.