Read the words from Boston’s general manager after the Red Sox signed a Cuban sensation:

“This is an exciting player. He’s got a great combination of skills, defensive ability, speed, solid power. He’s got a really strong track record in Cuba. We’re excited to add him to the organization and we feel he can be part of winning Red Sox teams here for a long time.”

The player receiving all the praise was not Yoan Moncada, but Rusney Castillo.

Before the Red Sox landed Moncada in March 2015, Boston GM Ben Cherington signed Castillo in August 2014 – at the urging of team ownership.

Castillo was dropped from Boston’s 40-man roster last week, but the Red Sox are on the hook for the remainder of his $72.5 million contract that runs through 2020. Over parts of three seasons, he has played 99 games in the majors, batting .262 with seven home runs.

Interestingly, Moncada was promoted to Double-A Portland at about the same time the Red Sox were apparently giving up on Castillo, though he remains in the organization at Triple-A Pawtucket.

It’s a continuous cycle with international free agents: spend, spend, spend – and hope.

In some cases, it appears a team is looking for the best talent. In others, the spending in itself appears to be a competition. A team owner loses out on one free agent, so he spends more on the next available one.

Baseball’s free-agent market for established players has its gambles, with mega millions spent on veterans based on past performance. Boston has had success (Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, among others) and disasters (Carl Crawford and, so far, Pablo Sandoval).

But there is even more uncertainty when it comes to spending on international free agents. Teams often are bidding on teenagers. Even older players who have proven themselves in international leagues may not adjust well to the U.S.

Todd Claus, a former Sea Dogs manager, is the Red Sox Latin America scouting coordinator. Latin American free agents, mostly from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, can be signed when they are 16. The scouting starts years earlier.

“We’re looking at 14-year-olds and trying to say whether they’re going to be big leaguers,” Claus said during a recent visit to Portland. “It’s the most difficult thing I’ve done in the game.”

Claus first saw Moncada as a 15-year-old playing in an international tournament in Mexico. He quickly notified the Red Sox that Moncada was a player “to keep an eye on.”

When Moncada left Cuba and filed for free agency, Boston won the bidding, offering a $31.5 million signing bonus. Moncada was just 19 years old.

To control outrageous spending by big-market clubs, Major League Baseball started establishing limits on signing bonuses for international free agents. Heavy fines would be imposed for violators. Boston owner John Henry shrugged and wrote a check for an additional $31.5 million to cover the fine. That makes $63 million for one prospect.

“Let’s hope he works out,” Claus said with a smile. Claus does not doubt Moncada’s ability. But no one can guarantee success in the major leagues.

Henry became the Red Sox owner before the 2002 season, when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was considerably one-sided in New York’s favor. By the end of the year, the Red Sox were locked in a battle for Cuban free-agent pitcher Jose Contreras, considered a sure-bet star.

While Contreras worked out in Nicaragua, the Red Sox recruited him heavily and thought they had a deal. But the Yankees swooped in with a four-year contract worth $32 million – $10 million more than Boston offered. The Contreras deal prompted the Red Sox president, Larry Lucchino, to issue his now-famous statement: “The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.”

The Yankees won the bidding, but did they really win? Contreras was mediocre in New York. And when his ERA ballooned to 5.64 in 2004, he was sent to the White Sox at the trade deadline.

But Henry seemed determined to outbid the Yankees. He got his chance four years later when Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka became available.

Under rules at the time, MLB teams submitted secret bids for the right to negotiate with Japanese League players. In 2000, the Seattle Mariners made a then-record bid of $13 million to negotiate with Ichiro Suzuki.

The bid for Matsuzaka figured to be higher. The Yankees reportedly bid $32 million.

Henry wanted to win this one and he made sure of it with a $51 million bid. The Red Sox then signed Matsuzaka to a six-year deal worth $52 million – making the total $103 million.

What did the Red Sox get? Two good years. He helped Boston win the American League East in 2007 (by two games over the Yankees) with a 15-12 record and 4.40 ERA. In the playoffs that season, Matsuzaka went 2-1, but with a 5.02 ERA in four starts as the Red Sox won the World Series.

Matsuzaka shined in 2008 (18-3, 2.90) although his postseason ERA was 4.50.

Over those two seasons, Matsuzaka pitched 3721/3 innings. In the four seasons after, he threw only 296 innings, going 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2011.

Interestingly, after the Yankees lost out on Matsuzaka, they signed Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa before the 2007 season. New York won the bid to negotiate with Igawa for $26 million, then gave him a $20 million deal over five years.

For their $46 million, the Yankees got 13 starts from Igawa (2-4, 6.66 ERA). He spent the final three years of his contract in the minors.

That did not keep the Yankees from going after Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The rules for Japanese free agents changed. Any team could negotiate with the player and then pay a posting fee (a maximum of $20 million) to his Japanese team. New York signed Tanaka for seven years and $155 million, plus the $20 million posting fee, before the 2014 season.

Tanaka has been a positive addition. Overall, he’s 29-14 with a 3.10 ERA. This season, he’s 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA.

In 2010, seven Cubans were on major league rosters on Opening Day. Six years later, the figure has more than tripled to 23. The Dominican Republic (82) and Venezuela (63) have the most major leaguers born outside the U.S.

Boston has signed Cubans before, including shortstop Jose Iglesias, who began his pro career with the Sea Dogs in 2010. He eased his way into the big leagues in 2011 and established himself in 2013, when the Red Sox traded him to Detroit and obtained Jake Peavy from the White Sox in a three-way deal.

Other Cubans – Yoenis Cespedes with the A’s in 2012 and Yasiel Puig with the Dodgers in 2013 – made immediate impacts.

When Cuban slugger Jose Abreu became an international free agent after the 2013 season, the Red Sox were interested. But in a secret bidding process, Boston came up $5 million short to the White Sox’s $68 million, six-year offer.

Abreu was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2014, batting .317 with 36 home runs.

Henry and the Red Sox would not lose out again, and signed Castillo in the summer of 2014. Castillo was called up that September and batted .333 with two home runs in 10 games.

His $72 million contract looked like a good deal and may have encouraged Boston to go all out on Moncada the next spring. The Yankees offered Moncada $25 million – $6.5 million less than Boston.

The Dodgers also have been signing Cubans and other international players, and likely will be paying a fine this year – reportedly up to $46 million.

While Puig has been an All-Star, the Dodgers have gambled unsuccessfully with other Cuban talent.

In the previous three years, they blew a total of $81 million on three players:

Infielder/left fielder Alex Guerrero signed with the Dodgers in 2013 but was released this month.

Third baseman/left fielder Hector Olivera signed in May 2015 but was traded to the Braves just two months later. Atlanta assumed his contract, but the Dodgers were out the $28 million signing bonus.

Shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena signed in 2014 but was designated for assignment at the end of the season. He is in the Dodgers’ minor league system but was suspended in May for the rest of the season for “repeated failure to comply with the terms of his contract,” according to the team.

Boston has not had those kinds of problems. The problem with Castillo, 28, is that he hasn’t been able to hit. Now off the 40-man roster and back in Pawtucket, Castillo is trying to revive his career.

Meanwhile, one level lower at Portland, the latest Cuban sensation is showing off his tools with the Sea Dogs.

Will Yoan Moncada eventually make an impact with Red Sox?

That’s the $63 million question, isn’t it?


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