Texas Rangers Sign Cuban Defector Leonys Martin for $15.5 Million

Clay ThomasContributor IIMay 4, 2011

MEXICO CITY - MARCH 08:  Leonys Martin #26 of Cuba crashes into the fence after making the last out of the baseball game against Paul Rutgers #20 of South Africa during the 2009 World Baseball Classic Pool B match on March 8, 2009 at the Estadio Foro Sol in Mexico City, Mexico.  Cuba won, 8-1. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers have added to the depth of their ball club by signing Leonys Martin of Cuba.

"This is something we are really excited about," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Our scouts worked really hard on this, doing as much homework on this as possible. We had a lot of people look at this guy and there was a lot of sentiment he could be an impact guy."

He signed a $15.5 million deal, including a $5 million signing bonus. He is a left-handed hitter and possesses great speed and defense. In a 90 game season in Cuba (2008-2009), he hit .311 with a OBP of .492 and slugging percentage of .491. He also has patience and can work the zone, as he walked 78 times and ranked second in the league with 17 steals.

According to John Manuel of Baseball America,

"Leonys Martin has become the latest high-profile player from Cuba to leave his family and country behind to chase a major league career.

"Martin, whose age is listed as 22, left Cuba after playing for the country's national team in Taiwan during the FISU World University Championships. He batted leadoff frequently for Cuba in that tournament, which is limited to players age 27 and under.

"He's a plus runner at least, being timed in 4.1 seconds to first base from the left side in Taiwan, and showed strong small-ball skills, with the ability to drag bunt for hits and handle the bat on the hit-and-run. He also played center field and showed at least average range."

The Rangers have great scouts. They were able to bring in and sign many plus draft picks. Doing that led to making trades for Benjie Molina, Cliff Lee, Christian Guzman and Jorge Cantu, and still having depth in their farm system.

Texas has never been the type of organization to go and spend money, either. Other than a spree in 2000 by signing Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park, they've always been conservative with their money. Spending $15.5 million on a 23 year old is interesting because of their penny-pinching past.

They wouldn't spend that much money unless they knew it was worth it.

This is a good time to sign him however, as Josh Hamilton is on the DL and Nelson Cruz left Tuesday nights game with a "tight quad."