Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and will be free to sign with a Major League organization beginning on March 6, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. The 21-year-old Martinez is subject to international bonus pools due to his age and lack of professional experience in the Cuban National Series, so he’ll now have to decide whether to sign with a team during the current signing period (when many teams have already spent the bulk or entirety of their league-allotted budget) or after the July 2 kick off the 2018-19 period.
According to Badler, the Rangers, Yankees and Marlins are the current favorites for Martinez, who is one of the more touted prospects to come out of Cuba in recent seasons. If Martinez opts to sign with the Yankees or Marlins, per Badler, he’d likely be waiting until this coming summer to sign so that both teams could tap into their 2018-19 pools. The Yankees added a pair of Venezuelan prospects back in late December and also picked up former Braves farmhand Angel Rojas for $350K, thus accounting for some of what was left over from a failed run at Shohei Ohtani.
Texas had $3.535MM in pool allotments to spend on Ohtani before he opted to sign with the division-rival Angels. They’ve since reallocated some of their pool by signing shortstops Yenci Pena (for $675K) and Keithron Moss (for $800K) as well as outfielder D’Vaughn Knowles (for $500K). That’d still leave as much as $1.56MM to offer Martinez to begin his pro career in the current signing period (though it’s possible the pool is a bit lesser depending on whether Texas has made some smaller-scale signings that were not widely reported).
Certainly, other clubs could enter the mix for Martinez — especially if he is keen on waiting until July to sign a contract. Far more teams would be able to weigh a pursuit of the 21-year-old at that time, and given the appeal touted by Badler in his scouting reports on Martinez, several teams would figure to have interest. Badler lists Martinez at 5’10” and 180 pounds, praising a blend of power and speed, and he’s expanded on the talented young outfielder in a pair of prior columns — both of which those looking to learn more about Martinez will want to check out.
The left-handed-hitting, left-handed-throwing Martinez hit .333/.469/.498 with six homers, 11 doubles, two triples and 24 steals (in 29 attempts) during his most recent professional effort in Cuba. More impressively, he drew 52 walks that season against just 30 strikeouts in 264 plate appearances.
He also appeared in 57 games and tallied 255 plate appearances in the 2017 Can-Am Association — the same independent league that was previously home to big leaguers Chris Colabello, Andrew Albers, Craig Breslow, Steve Delabar and Tim Adleman, among others — where he hit .297/.345/.449 with seven homers and 20 steals. In today’s piece, Badler notes that Martinez is likely of an appropriate skill level to begin his path to the Majors in Class-A Advanced or in Double-A.