8/23/2014 7:50 P.M. ET
Castillo a fascinating add to Boston's 2015 lineup
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
The Red Sox got better and more interesting on Saturday. In the end, that's all that matters, right? As for sorting out who plays where, forget about it. That's the fascinating part in all of this.
The Nation should love watching Cuban outfielders Rusney Castillo and Yoenis Cespedes play together, hopefully for a few years. Here's what John Farrell's lineup card might look like on Opening Day next April:
1. Rusney Castillo, CF.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B.
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF.
4. David Ortiz, DH.
5. Mike Napoli, 1B.
6. Allen Craig, RF.
7. Brock Holt, 3B.
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS.
9. Christian Vazquez, C.
This could be a nice upgrade for a club that has been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. But this lineup has just two left-handed hitters -- Holt and Ortiz -- so Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington might have more significant moves in mind.
He has plenty of options. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. are still young guys and might yet be the impact players the Red Sox once projected them to be. Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts and Daniel Nava could also end up in the mix.
If Craig ends up the odd man out and the Red Sox have an outfield of Bradley, Castillo and Cespedes, it would be one of the best defensive groups on the planet. Regardless, Cherington has roster flexibility he didn't have a few weeks ago. He will attempt to add a veteran starter to his rotation -- Max Scherzer? James Shields? -- and probably make a decision on whether he thinks Clay Buchholz can still turn his career around while with the Red Sox.
Just a month ago, Cherington looked at his roster and wondered how it would generate enough offense to get back in contention in 2015. He could see quality pitching depth -- Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, etc. He couldn't see runs.
Cherington has had himself a gutsy, productive few weeks, trading his top two starting pitchers, Jon Lester and John Lackey, to acquire Cespedes and Craig. In doing so, he did one of the toughest things any organization can do. First, he made a blunt assessment that the Red Sox would not be going back to the playoffs in 2014. Rather than pretend otherwise, he aggressively began remaking his baseball team.
Even with the addition of Joe Kelly in the Craig deal with the Cardinals, Cherington created two huge holes in his rotation. But he saw an offseason free-agent market that has quality starting pitching available, and very little offense.
On Saturday, Cherington acquired another offensive weapon by signing the 27-year-old Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5-million deal. Considering the immediate impact of three recent Cuban signees -- Yasiel Puig (Dodgers), Jose Abreu (White Sox) and Cespedes -- it's easy to get excited by seeing Castillo play.
Scouts say he's more a top-of-the-order guy who will not hit home runs the way Cespedes and Abreu have. But he might hit double-digit home runs and will play very good defense. Seeing how he has added 20 pounds since 2012, the last time he was in live competition, there are plenty of questions about what kind of player he'll be.
But the intensity of the bidding speaks volumes about the productivity teams think Castillo is capable of bringing to a winning team.
Cespedes and Castillo will both impact games, probably in different ways. Castillo is a speed guy who might hit double-digit home runs. He should be an above-average defensive player capable of playing either center or right.
Cespedes is a middle-of-the-order presence who can change games in an instant, and because of that, he could impact almost the entire lineup.
Whatever other moves Cherington has in mind, a No. 1 starting pitcher should be at the top of his shopping list. So even after a month of impressive work, there's more to do. But he's off to a great start.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.