While just 4 1/2 games back in the American League East and two games out of the final Wild Card spot, the New York Yankees have been relatively quiet as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline nears. Other than the acquisition of third baseman Chase Headley last week and veteran lefty reliever Jeff Francis before that, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hasn’t pulled the trigger on any other trades recently and New York has not been linked to any major possible trades.
With a middling offense and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki struggling at the plate, the Yankees are in need of a big bat in the lineup and rather than scouring the trade market or giving up any prospects they are in pursuit of Cuban defector and free agent Rusney Castillo, according to the New York Post. Castillo, 27, held a workout in Miami on Saturday with four Yankees scouts and reps from nearly all 30 teams in the majors in attendance.
Ranked 16th in runs scored and 17th in team batting average, the Yankees also went a step further and invited Castillo to Tampa for a private workout. Represented by rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, the outfielder wants to play this season, a fact that ups the ante for any team hoping to acquire him and that essentially sets up a bidding war. Castillo could demand as much as $30 million to $45 million, the Post reported.
Standing 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Castillo impressed scouts during the hitting portion of his workout. In other drills, he showed excellent speed along the base paths but some scouts questioned his arm strength in the outfield, calling it “average,” according to Baseball America.
“After his second round of batting practice, I would have stopped right there because I didn’t think he could improve on that,” one scout said to Baseball America. “But he did.”
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From 2008 to 2012, Castillo played in the Cuban National Series, but now he’s hoping to be the next Cuban sensation in the majors like Yasiel Puig with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yoenis Cespedes with the Oakland A’s and the Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu before him.
Like Puig, Cespedes and Abreu, Castillo is technically an unproven commodity asking for major dollars before ever setting foot in an MLB park. The Yankees and any other team vying for Castillo will assume a costly risk should Castillo not pan out. Puig signed for seven years and $42 million, Cespedes got $36 million over four years and Chicago will shell out $68 million over the next six years for Abreu.
The Yankees have a mixed recent history when it comes to spending on an unproven foreign star. They splurged on Japanese league righty Masahiro Tanaka to the tune of $155 million over seven years, and paid $20 million just to negotiate the deal. With Tanaka earning 12 wins with a 2.51 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 18 starts, the gamble immediately paid off until he suffered a ligament tear in his right elbow earlier this month. Now, Tanaka and the Yankees are hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery, and maybe get him back before the playoffs.