The Detroit Tigers traded away Austin Jackson in July in order to acquire pitcher David Price. Did the team do so knowing they could make a serious push for the latest big-name Cuban outfielder?
As of today, that angle is beginning to look more possible. Outfielder Rusney Castillo, who is being pursued by the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs, might have a place in Detroit after all. Early on, it didn't appear as if Detroit would be in on the bidding thanks to their established center fielder.
Now, the Tigers are looking like a top big-market suitor set to join the others. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News discussed the possibility of Detroit landing Castillo, and admitted the angle of the team losing Jackson may be playing a significant role in their ramped-up interest of the center fielder.
"There is no indication the Tigers were seriously contemplating Castillo when they sent Jackson to the Mariners at the July trade deadline. But even a starter as inconsistent as Jackson has largely been missed since he was dealt so suddenly 15 days ago."
Since Jackson departed, the Tigers have gotten average at-best results from the tandem of Rajai Davis and Ezequiel Carrera in center field. As Henning notes, Detroit would prefer that Davis play in left field. Outside of a fantastic diving catch against the Yankees, Carrera isn't proven enough as a player and hitter at the big league level to depend on consistent results.
Castillo, 27, figures to have a combination of raw speed and power both in the field and at the plate that fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig have had before him, meaning he would certainly be an upgrade over Davis and Carrera and quite possibly even Jackson, as well.
An anonymous American League scout Henning spoke with didn't disagree.
"His bat impressed me with his ability to square up the ball, with power all over the field. He can run down almost anything in the outfield. He's a 70 runner (80 is maximum scouting score), his hands are fine, his arm is average to solid-average. His minimum—his floor—is a fourth outfielder who could be used as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner every day. His ceiling is an All-Star center fielder. I think he fits somewhere in between."
The move to add Castillo before a more established major leaguer such as Daniel Nava would still be risky. Despite his good virtues, Castillo would certainly face an adjustment period down the stretch both at the plate and in cavernous Comerica Park. Additionally, none of the Cubans have yet failed, with Jose Abreu, Puig and Cespedes all playing All-Star caliber baseball. It provides room for hope with Castello, but also trepidation, considering one could be due to fall flat.
Still, there's no arguing that Castillo would be a better option to trot out daily than Carrera, meaning the move could provide the team with the offensive jolt of energy they so badly seem to need on a daily basis.
Castillo's signing process could wrap up next week, with reports suggesting he could sign a multi-year contract worth nearly $50-60 million dollars.
Will Detroit's unique position of offering both championship contention and a spot as an immediate starter pay off? It's worth watching in the days ahead.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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Tags: Austin Jackson, Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Ezequiel Carrera, Jose Abreu, MLB, Rajai Davis, Rusney Castillo, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes