The Rangers have agreed to terms with Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. The touted 21-year-old prospect, who became eligible to sign today, will receive a $2.8MM signing bonus, which will fully deplete the remainder of Texas’ 2017-18 international bonus pool.
Due to his age and lack of professional experience, Martinez was not eligible to sign as a professional. He’ll receive a minor league contract in addition to that $2.8MM bonus and join the Rangers as one of the game’s more touted prospects. Badler notes that Martinez will slot in at No. 60 overall on BA’s updated Top 100 prospect list. That places him two spots behind countryman Luis Robert, who in the final season of the 2012-16 collective bargaining agreement signed with the White Sox for a reported $26MM bonus that came with a 100 percent luxury tax under the previous international signing rules.
The discrepancy between the cost of acquisition for two somewhat comparable prospects is fairly staggering and also underscores the manner in which the latest CBA has restricted clubs from spending on amateur talent. Under the previous agreement, teams could make the tactical decision to exceed their league-allotted bonus pools by more than 15 percent in exchange for a two-year ban from signing international amateurs for anything more than $300K apiece. Many teams, including the Cubs, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, Reds, Dodgers and Padres, among others, were willing to make that trade-off in exchange for signing splurges that completely shattered their pools but also provided an immediate talent infusion to their respective prospect pipelines.
Now, the league and union have agreed to a hard cap on international amateurs, and no club is allotted more than $5.75MM at the onset of a given international signing period. While teams can trade for up to an additional 75 percent of their initial pool allotment, the strategy of aggressive spending on the international front is not one that teams can employ anymore — at least not with the previously acceptable levels of vigor. The now-finite level of resources teams can utilize on the international market only makes those funds more coveted — particularly among rebuilding/retooling clubs.
Digression aside, the Rangers will add an athletic young center fielder to their ranks when the deal is finalized. Martinez will become the team’s third-ranked prospect, Badler notes, trailing only Willie Calhoun and Leody Taveras. 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.
Badler notes in today’s piece that Martinez’s present level of development should allow him to head to Class-A Advanced or Double-A. He’s also 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.