Rusney Castillo of the Boston Red Sox in action against the Atlanta Braves during a Grapefruit League spring training game at JetBlue Park at Fenway South on March 01, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Former Boston Red Sox outfielder and current free agent Rusney Castillo is in the process of returning to play in Cuba for the upcoming 2023-24 Elite League season and the 2024 Serie Nacional season with Cocodrilos de Matanzas, Francys Romero of beisbolfr.com reported on Wednesday.
Castillo, 28, will return to Cuba after leaving the country in 2013 after the 2012-13 winter league season in Serie Nacional with his hometown team, the Tigres de Ciego de Avila.
Castillo played five seasons in Serie Nacional, where in 323 games he batted .315 with 1,253 plate appearances, smacking 352 hits, 61 doubles, 10 triples, 42 home runs, 192 RBI, swiping 68 stolen bases, 86 walks, and 142 strikeouts with a .881 OPS.
Castillo signed with the Red Sox on August 23, 2014, for seven years and $72 million contract as an international free agent, which remains the largest Major League contract for a Cuban defector.
During his Major League Baseball career, Castillo played three seasons with the Red Sox from 2014 to 2016, and in 99 games batted .262 across 337 plate appearances with 83 hits, 12 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 16 walks, 63 strikeouts and a .679 OPS.
After the 2019 season, Castillo has been a journeyman, playing in Japan with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2021, splitting time between the Long Island Ducks and the Staten Island FerryHawks in the Atlantic during the 2022 season, and this past year, playing for the Mariachis de Guadalajara in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol.
This past season, Castillo signed as a free agent with the Mariachis de Guadalajara on May 16 and played in 13 games with 45 plate appearances, batting .279 recording 12 hits, three doubles, five RBI, three stolen bases, two walks, and six strikeouts before he was released on June 2.
Last winter, Castillo played with the Cangrejeros de Santurce in Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. In 43 games, he made 166 plate appearances, batting .283 with 41 hits, five doubles, eight RBI, four stolen bases, 13 walks, 14 strikeouts and a .679 OPS.
In the 2022 season in the Atlantic League, Castillo played in 100 games with 411 plate appearances batting .297 recording 110 hits, 10 doubles, six home runs, 47 RBI, 28 walks, and 37 strikeouts including a .726 OPS.
Castillo has also played in the winter leagues in Puerto Rico with Criollos de Caguas from 2016-20 and in Mexico’s Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacífico with Águilas de Mexicali in 2020-21 and Naranjeros de Hermosillo in 2021-22.
Castillo has played in 153 games in the professional winter leagues, batting .286 with 616 plate appearances and159 hits, 18 doubles, six home runs, 53 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 37 walks, 66 strikeouts and a .689 OPS.
The 2023-24 Elite League season will be the second season in operation from the Federacion Cubana de Beisbol and will contain the teams that finished as the top six of standings in the 2023 Serie Nacional Season along with the winner not participating in the 2024 Caribbean Series.
The 2022-23 Elite League champion Agricultores, Centrales, Portuarios, Tabacaleros, Ganaderos, and the Cafetaleros are not returning for the 2023-24 Elite League season.
Six Serie Nacional teams will play in the 2023-24 Elite League season: the 2023 Serie Nacional champions Leñadores de Las Tunas, Cocodrilos de Matanzas, Cazadores de Artemisa, Industriales de La Habana, Avispas de Santiago de Cuba, and Gallos de Sancti Spíritus.