Although the most interesting free agent crop of Cubans in the last decade came and went in the second half of 2009 and early 2010 with nary a peep from the bankrupt Rangers, it did end up snagging discarded 1b Jose Julio Ruiz in the end. 2011 marks a different time and Texas is now on the verge of signing CF Leonys Martin to a ML deal per team sources. Martin was officially granted FA status on March 18 after his defection in August 2010 (so he has been out of baseball for about 7 months). Profiles about him are not very in depth and, characteristically for international FA, are not entirely consistent, so I would wait to see what Texas (and the post-signing pundits) has to say about him (particularly what he signs for and where he will be assigned, highA like Hechaverria or AA like Iglesias and Ruiz, AAA?) if the club snags him. It isn't clear if he is a fringy overall CF like Borbon (fringy #9 hitter<.650 ops>, poor splits, impatient, plus D) or something more or less.
Anyways, if he projects to be at least like Borbon, and not more than 1-2 years away, I would guess he would get a contract in the 4yr, 6-8m range. One rumor has him getting 15m and if that is the case then that would mean that Texas believes he can be an above-average starting CF and leadoff hitter for a contender. I came across a source that said he showed plus plus speed in his tryouts (and doesn't drink or smoke to boot). Whatever the case, he will assuredly be better than Reinier Bermudez.
Don't forget, this should be the most exciting year for Texas on the international scene and this signing would be a great way to kick it off. With the new ownership, Texas should compete to sign at least one or two of the elite j2 hitters for the first time, in the 2m+ area code. Hopefully there is a power hitting RF or 3b out their that merits the outlay. If there is an elite pitcher out there, I would expect Texas to be in on him too. Don Welke said in an interview (filmed by Ted Price) at some preseason event that Texas was all in on three of the top j2 prospects this year so something will happen. Maybe we even wade into the Yu Darvish scene if he's posted in the off season, though the abuse young pitchers take over there should give one pause on the 50million+ posting fee (not including his salary of course).
The Jays' blog Yardbarker has a long article musing on the kid from their POV (h/t ming). Here is what BA's John Manuel had to say in September:
Sizing Up Cuban Defector Leonys Martin
Posted Sep. 16, 2010 10:24 am by John Manuel
Filed under: International
Leonys Martin has become the latest high-profile player from Cuba to leave his family and country behind to chase a major league career. If recent history is any guide, Martin figures to garner a seven-figure signing bonus once he establishes residency and becomes a free agent.
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 was on the 18U junior-national team in 2006 as well, so his age appears to be quite believable. As a 21-year-old, Martin was a reserve on the 2009 World Baseball Classic team.He's a lefthanded hitter whose best tools are his speed and defense. 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. Martin also hit .326 with 10 home runs in the last Serie Nacional, Cuba's top-level league, while playing for Villa Clara, and has drawn plenty of walks in Cuba, posting a .311/.492/.491 line in 2008-2009, when he drew 78 bases on balls and ranked second in the league with 17 steals (in a 90-game season).
Martin was reported to be in Mexico, trying to establish residency to become a free agent. That process can take months, but it's possible Martin could give an organization a 23-year-old speedy center fielder for the 2011 season.
Peter Bjarkman had this to say about Martin preceding the league playoffs in March 2010:
Championships are also normally won when an individual player or two rise above the field with a memorable history-making performance. My guess is that Leonys Martin and Fred Asiel Alvarez are the key performers in this biggest showdown series of the year. Martin has been as hot as ever the past several weeks and he possesses multiple ways to beat opponents—slugging with power, reaching base with impressive regularity, dangerous base-path speed, and stellar outfield defense. And Martin is also developing an uncanny knack for stroking clutch hits in crucial big-game situations—just like his earlier prototype Luis Ulacia.