Rusney Castillo: The Biggest Bust in Baseball History

Bust (transitive verb): to ruin financially <the game of cheaters, which has busted more men than blackjack — Arthur Mayse>

Rusney Castillo has once again reported to spring training with the Boston Red Sox, ostensibly ready to “compete” for another chance in the big leagues. He enters the fourth season of a seven-year contract that pays him $72.5M. This year, he will take home $11,271,428 – to whatever lodging he has acquired since becoming a permanent resident of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And Castillo has as much chance of making the Boston’s Opening Day roster as I do, mostly because he is the definition of financial ruin.

When the topic of the worst contracts in baseball history comes up, there’s a pretty reliable list of names: Mike Hampton. Mo Vaughn. Jason Bay. Maybe Ryan Howard. But compared to Rusney Castillo, those prime examples of profligacy pale in comparison. They were bad. They were overpaid, for a long time. Yet they were big-league players and provided their “services” to a major league team, as bad as those services may have been. Rusney Castillo hasn’t sniffed major league air for more than a couple of coffee since 2015 and he likely never will again.

Assuming he never dons a Boston uniform again, Castillo provided 337 plate appearances over three seasons (99 total games). He hit .262/.301/.379, with seven homers, 35 runs batted in, 45 runs scored, and seven stolen bases to go along with 63 strikeouts and 11 GIDP. However, the numbers alone cannot explain just how bad at baseball Rusney Castillo proved to be. This sort-of shows the depths of his depravity, but it is insufficient to fully explain the magnitude of his muckery:

The Red Sox took a gamble on Castillo after the success of other Cuban free agents, and lost badly. But because of John Henry’s largess – and a quirk of the CBA – Castillo is not affecting the big-league club. His salary has been excised from the luxury tax calculations – having been outrighted to AAA Pawtucket, Castillo’s bloated contract does not factor into the Red Sox payroll calculations. Only if he were to be recalled to Boston – and added to the 40-man roster – would his salary affect the team.

The Red Sox could, theoretically, bring Castillo back into the fold and use him – but it would cost them dearly. Already close to the threshold, re-adding Castillo to the mix would eliminate any remaining cap space the Sox have, as well as complicating (read: adding to) future seasons’ payroll. His contract does not ruin the Red Sox financially – but it should. Being a big market behemoth has its advantages, and this is one of them. Almost any other club would be hamstrung by the failure of Castillo, but the Red Sox can simply pay him off to play in Pawtucket without really suffering any consequence.

Basically, it would take an on-field collision between Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi, with Chris Young impaling himself on the Pesky Pole, for Castillo to make it back to Boston. A strong winter league season in Puerto Rico – where the Craptastic Cuban helped his team to a league title – and his arrival in Fort Myers (can’t get paid if you don’t show up!) have sparked the usual “Castillo in 2017” stories – but don’t be fooled. Even he hits 1.000 this spring with 42 home runs, he’s not making the team. It makes no financial sense.

And that’s why Rusney Castillo is the worst baseball contract of all time. Halfway through his disastrous deal, he couldn’t get back to the big leagues even if a meteor hit Jet Blue Park’s outfield and incapacitated every other outfielder on the roster. Castillo has proven himself to be not worthy of a major league roster spot and his contract is so prohibitive that he can’t be recalled under any circumstances.

Mo Vaughn signed a six-year $80M contract with the Angels and, in the second year of that deal, fell down the dugout stairs while chasing a foul pop up. However, before the injury he played 300 games for Anaheim, racking up 1,304 plate appearances, 69 home runs, and 308 strikeouts (along with his .276/.362/.503 batting line). Mike Hampton signed an eight-year $121M contract with Colorado, and he too spent just two years with the club who handed him all that cash. He started 62 games and logged 381 ⅔ innings for the Rockies, posting a 5.75 ERA. Jason Bay recorded 288 games, 1,125 plate appearances, and 26 home runs with the New York Mets in three injury-plagued seasons while earning $66M over four years. Vaughn, Hampton, and Bay anchor any worst-contract-in-baseball-history lists – yet all posted far superior statistics than did Castillo in the totality of his big league career.

In the end, Rusney Castillo will have been paid more than $10M for each major league home run. His ineptness prevented him from even breaking 100 career games played: he was literally so bad that the Red Sox are paying him – and will keep paying him for three more years – to not be in Boston. At some point soon, another player will sign a huge deal and then get hurt or succumb to ineffectiveness – but none will ever play less in the major leagues, or earn so much per homer, as Rusney. Never before, and never again, shall a player earn so much for so little production in the big leagues.


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Featured image courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports.

5 COMMENTS

  1. True article . . .however, Rusney could quite possibly be in the big leagues with another team now if he didn’t have the contract around his neck. His numbers are great for a back up outfielder on a lot of teams. He is a good fielder and could help them. But no one is going to pay him those dollars so the Sox can’t trade him. If the only way to trade him is to eat a lot of the contract, then you are right, might as well pay him to stay at Pawtucket. Too bad for everyone that the Sox went nuts in the $$$ category for a foreign play who had no big league experience. It is also interesting that there are only a handful of good Cuban players in the bigs who are worth what they got.

    • This has me wondering… is it possible for a team and player to mutually agree to void a contract? If I were Rusney, I would probably keep smiling and cashing my paychecks… but maybe he has dreams of being a major leaguer before his “prime” is done and would rather compete for a real spot for an MLB team, even if it means less money. Would the players’ association step in and stop any deal from being made?

  2. Dang, I think you’re being a tad rough on Rusney and maybe you’re not but let’s consider some facts. He came from Cuba with ‘world class’ speed and by world class I mean he was blinding fast.. as in the fastest player on the Island. The only one who could keep up with him was Moncada but that’s another story with a 66M contract. So Rusney arrives with no minor league experience and the Sox bring him up at the end of 2014 for a look-see and it was only 10 games but he proceeded to pound the ball with authority and a few HRs. He also ran down everything in sight and he stole bases on demand. That made him a lock somewhere in the OF the following year but a funny thing happened along the way the following spring. JF played him all over the OF but rarely in the same position on consecutive days and he rarely batted him in the same place in the line up. In other words he never let him get settled and while Nava was playing almost every day in RF and Hanley was stinking up LF, Castillo sat. Despite this he made the most of every opportunity cranking more HRs with fewer ABs, running down everything in sight but he knew he’d have to ‘earn’ a starting position that had been bequeathed to him and he did as the teams best hitter. His reward for this was a demotion to AAA and while JF had the green light on for everybody to steal bases he inexplicably put the brakes on the fastest player on the team. So Rusney got demoted and he hasn’t been the same. He collected his money and when they played him at Fenway he played with indifference and sometimes fact is stranger than fiction because in only 24 games in LF he had more Defensive Runs Saved than any other LF in baseball in 2015. So I think the talent is there but I also think he was mishandled into the problem that he is. Nevertheless, he’s back at Spring Trainer and hope springs eternal some of the problem is of the Red Sox own doing. It’s not Rusneys fault if the Red Sox have money but long term guaranteed high dollar contracts can be a disincentive.. especially to someone who never had two nickels to rub together when they feel disrespected. It’s just a theory but I’ve seen it time & time again. How’s Craig working out for you?

  3. What a ridiculous contract situation. He’s overpaid, yet seems good enough to be a backup for some MLB team. Pawtucket numbers were pretty good this year. He has value, but isn’t worth losing the cap space. Castillo is a bust, but it’s not entirely his fault. It’s more due to this strange contract dilemma – he gets a fat paycheck and has no need to prove himself.

    Any way you look at it, what a dumb signing…

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