Mets Look To Venezuela For Next Big Thing

Phil HoopsCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 08:  Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Omar Minaya of the New York Mets looks on before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 8, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In July of 2005, the Mets signed outfielder Fernando Martinez out of the Dominican Republic for roughly $1.4 million. At the time, the signing was seen as a pivotal move in making the Mets a winning franchise following the acquisitions of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran.

Almost four years later, Martinez has finally broken into the big leagues. Though he is off to a slow start—.180 average., 1 HR and 8 RBI) in 89 at-bats—Martinez has improved as of late and it looks like the signing will be a success.

Today is the first day of the international free agent signing period and the Mets have signed LHP Juan Urbina. Urbina, the son of the troubled former MLB pitcher Ugueth Urbina, is only 16 years of age.

The team appears to be very committed to him. They have rewarded him with a large signing bonus worth around $1.2 million.

Similarly to Fernando Martinez, Urbina has a great deal of upside and the potential to be the Mets’ next top homegrown star, following in the footsteps of Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Mike Pelfrey.

According to Baseball America, Urbina’s fastball hovers in the upper 80s and tops out at 91 mph.

The move signifies Omar Minaya’s desire to rebuild an otherwise weak farm system following the trades to acquire both Johan Santana and J.J. Putz.

If successful, Urbina could find himself in the starting rotation within the next three years or so as Oliver Perez’s contract runs following the 2011 season and John Maine is eligible for free agency come 2012.