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Leonys Martin Rumors
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
Mike Napoli could bring a bit of added intensity to the plate when he faces C.J. Wilson this season. Wilson recently posted Napoli's phone number on Twitter, a response to an alleged comment made by Napoli about how he was looking forward to homering off of Wilson this season. Napoli was not amused by the joke and, though he didn't recall making the initial statement, vowed to indeed try and take Wilson yard. Eighty years after Babe Ruth hit his famous "called shot" in the World Series, if Napoli does indeed homer off of Wilson this season, can we call it the Prank Called Shot?
Some (more serious) news from around the AL West…
- Coco Crisp said he wouldn't have re-signed with the Athletics had he known he was going to be moved to left field, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Yoenis Cespedes will start the year as Oakland's center fielder, and Crisp said the promise of the center field job was one of the reasons he signed with the A's over the Rays, who couldn't promise Crisp regular time in center due to B.J. Upton's presence. Crisp did say that he was glad to be back with the A's and, in regards to the position switch, says he has to "go out here and just accept it."
- The Rangers feel Leonys Martin needs more development and are "concerned about [his] lack of instincts," tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though the club still recognizes his talent. The Cuban outfielder signed a five-year, $15.5MM deal with Texas last May and hit .295/.362/.421 in 343 minor league PAs, going all the way from rookie ball to an eight-plate appearance cup of coffee with the Rangers in September.
- Hong-Chih Kuo was released earlier today by the Mariners, though if the southpaw clears waivers, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times believes the M's could re-sign Kuo to a minor league contract.
- Also from Condotta, the Mariners are still figuring out what to do with Lucas Luetge, a left-handed reliever taken from the Brewers in last winter's Rule 5 draft. Kuo's release could help Luetge find a spot in the Mariners' bullpen, though the M's also have Charlie Furbush, Cesar Jimenez and George Sherrill competing for roles as left-handed relief options.
- For some news about the Angels, check this compilation of Los Angeles Notes from earlier tonight on MLBTR.
Ichiro Suzuki's streak of ten consecutive 200-hit seasons will likely end this year, since he's 49 hits away from 200. But as the Mariners point out, Ichiro has picked up at least 49 hits in a month six times in his career. Here are some more notes from the AL West…
- The A's will need to make a 40-man roster move tomorrow, when they add Neil Wagner to their active roster, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). They'll have room on the 25-man roster once Jerry Blevins clears waivers tomorrow.
- The Rangers expect Nelson Cruz to miss three weeks with a strained left hamstring, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter). The Rangers could consider Lance Berkman of the Cardinals, but GM Jon Daniels indicated that he expects to find help from within the organization.
- Wilson notes that Leonys Martin will take Cruz's roster spot for now and that a Berkman deal seems unlikely (Twitter links).
- As Kevin Baxter of the LA Times explains, the Angels have been playing better partly because of Vernon Wells' increased productivity. The offseason acquisition started off slowly and his season line is still just .216/.249/.393, but he has four multi-hit games in his last six contests.
Now that top prospects Eric Hosmer and Jose Iglesias are in the majors, Jon Heyman of SI.com examines the minors’ top prospects. Mariners infield prospect Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick behind Stephen Strasburg two years ago, is "over-rated'' and without a clear defensive position in the opinion on one NL executive. Here’s Heyman’s latest from around the league:
- The Giants and Mets don’t appear to be talking about Jose Reyes at the moment, but the rumors won’t stop until the calendar flips to August or another team acquires the shortstop. Heyman hears from one person who believes the Mets would “have to” send Reyes to San Francisco if they could get pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in return.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes suggested Wheeler as a possible target for the Mets last week.
- In off-field news, Heyman reports that the Mets are getting more interest than expected from buyers interested in a minority stake in the team.
- The Rangers hope Cuban outfield prospect Leonys Martin, who signed last week, can help them in 2011.
- The Reds were among the teams that bid on Martin, according to Heyman.
A few items of note on Friday night as Derek Lowe's bid for the Majors' second no-hitter of the week falls by the wayside …
- Rangers prospect Leonys Martin can opt out of his five-year contract and choose to go through the arbitration process if he has enough service time to qualify for arbitration before the contract expires, MLBTR has learned. Martin, 23, is a Cuban defector whose deal with Texas became official on Tuesday.
- Angels reliever Jason Bulger, who was designated for assignment on April 27, cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Diamondbacks right-hander Daniel Hudson was part of the ill-fated trade between the Padres and White Sox in May 2009 that was vetoed by Jake Peavy, according to Dan Hayes of the North County Times (via Twitter). Peavy later accepted a trade to the South Siders at that season's deadline, but that package did not include Hudson. Instead, Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell went to the Friars. Hudson was later dealt to Arizona at the 2010 trade deadline in exchange for Edwin Jackson.
- The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire at season's end, and hard-slotting for draft picks could be implemented in the new CBA, writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Hard-slotting would affix a set price to each draft pick and preclude drafted prep players from using the threat of going to college as bargaining leverage. One scouting director told Mayo he expects to see more players sign this year since it could be their last chance to negotiate a hefty signing bonus.
Who knew first place could be this uncomfortable? The Rangers lead the AL West, but they're tied with the Angels, just a game ahead of the A's and just two games ahead of the Mariners. Here's the latest on the defending American League champions…
- Some rival scouts told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that if recently-signed Rangers outfield prospect Leonys Martin were available in the upcoming draft, he'd be one of the most highly-coveted players around.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears from Rangers officials that Martin is a "plus defender with a good arm," who is "instinctive" and "has a chance to have an impact on the bases."
- The Rangers called up Mark Lowe and optioned Pedro Strop to the minors in an effort to improve their bullpen, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. I'm guessing we'll hear lots about the Rangers' 'pen at MLBTR this summer unless it gets healthy in a hurry.
- Brandon Webb, who is trying to pitch in the majors for the first time in over two years, will throw out of the bullpen and work on his mechanics instead of pitching in a game at extended Spring Training tomorrow, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
WEDNESDAY: Martin's five-year Major League deal includes a $5MM signing bonus, tweets Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan confirms that the deal is official, noting that Martin is likely to start at Double-A. By the way, Martin is represented by Praver/Shapiro.
TUESDAY: The Rangers' contract with Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin is official, tweets Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. The deal is worth $15.5MM over five years. The Rangers currently have a full 40-man roster, so they'll have to clear a spot for Martin.
Martin, 23, defected from Cuba last year and established residency in Mexico. Back in September, Baseball America's John Manuel wrote that Martin's "best tools are his speed and defense." ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. tweeted in March that Martin is "considered an elite prospect." ESPN's Buster Olney talked to three talent evaluators about Martin in April, with one saying he's "similar to Juan Pierre, with a better arm." Another called him a "capable, average major league center fielder," questioning the price paid by Texas.
May 2nd was a busy day for transactions 25 years ago, back in 1986. Current Red Sox manager Terry Francona signed with the Cubs and the Yankees signed Tommy John as a free agent. Here’s the latest from around the league…
- Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin is working out at extended Spring Training in Arizona and his deal with the Rangers should be completed this week, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- The Mets announced that top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia has a complete MCL tear of the right elbow. Though surgery has been recommended, Mejia will likely seek a second opinion before having an operation.
- Heath Bell told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he helps his kids with their homework instead of reading trade rumors. Unfortunately for Bell, the rumors will really be heating up in July once school’s out. Of course trade rumors are nothing new for the Padres’ All-Star closer.
The Rangers and Angels are currently tied for first place in the AL West, with 11-6 records. The latest from the division:
- For what seems like the hundredth time, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik explained why he is not looking to trade ace Felix Hernandez. His latest comments came today on the Brock and Salk Show on 710 ESPN Seattle.
- The Rangers made a series of roster moves today, purchasing Brett Tomko's contract, recalling catcher Taylor Teagarden, putting Mason Tobin on the DL, and optioning Michael Kirkman. In the opinion of Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, they're likely to create a 40-man roster spot for Tomko by moving Wilmer Font to the 60-day DL.
- Leonys Martin awaits a work permit before his $15.5MM deal with Texas can be made official, reports Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald (link in Spanish). A source close to the negotiations told Ebro, "Everything should come through in one or two weeks, but the deal is still on, without any problems."
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer fills us in on Brandon Wood, who was recently designated for assignment by the Angels. Spencer says Wood "is a shortstop in his heart and mind," and likes the Padres and Diamondbacks as fits for him. For a look at other possible matches for Wood, check out my article from earlier today.
Let's check out some Rangers items as they take on the Yankees in the Bronx..
- The Rangers will undoubtedly be on the lookout for relief pitching this offseason, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- Evan P. Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter) wonders what the Rangers would look like had they taken Robinson Cano instead of Joaquin Arias in the Alex Rodriguez trade.
- The Rangers will likely wait to announce the signing of Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. The 23-year-old is still being processed through the customs and immigration, and it could be beyond this week before he is ready to play for the club.
- As he works to rehabilitate his injured shoulder, Brandon Webb tells Sullivan that he would be willing to work out of the bullpen as a reliever if that's what the Rangers need when he gets back. Webb's performance bonuses for 2011 are tied to innings pitched and days on the active roster, but not to number of games started. The right-hander will earn a base of $3MM and could boost the value of the deal to $8-10MM through incentives.
- Colby Lewis will return from paternity leave on Monday but the Rangers won't have to risk losing anyone to create a roster spot, Sullivan writes. It seems likely that either Michael Kirkman or Mark Lowe will be optioned to Triple-A.