I was catching up on some MLB transactions yesterday and I saw that the Texas Rangers just signed 23 year old Cuban defector and outfielder Leonys Martin to a Major League contract. Great move for the Rangers. They gave this 6’2″, 190lbs, left fielder a $5 million signing bonus and $15.5 million total for the second richest contract given out to a Cuban defector ever. This guy must be good huh? Judging from his stats in the Cuba league, he should be. Here’s what he did in Cuba:
He hit .398 in 2007-08 in Cuba, garnering some attention with the second-highest batting average in the league. He also had 13 stolen bases and nine triples.
In 2008-09, Martin batted .311 and had a .491 on-base percentage. He stole 17 bases and was fifth in the league in walks with 78.
To my keen baseball eye, this kid looks like he could be quite the leadoff hitter for a few years to come. He’s got a good eye, gets walks and hits and he steals bases. I mean, he sounds ideal as a leadoff hitter if he can duplicate his success in Cuba at the Major League level. He looks like everything that Nyjer Morgan wishes he was! Now, which team that I follow does not have one of those leadoff hitter type players I was just speaking of…hm…oh wait, THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS.
This really begs the question, “Why didn’t we even hear any mention of the Washington Nationals with regards to this player?” We heard their name bandied about in discussions with Aroldis Chapman who eventually signed with the Cincinnati Reds for the largest contract ever handed out to a Cuban defector (over $30 million) but we didn’t hear a peep about the Nationals with regards to Martin at all. WHAT GIVES?
Currently the Nationals have no legitimate lead-off hitter on their team. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa have failed miserably at the #1 spot in the Nationals’ lineup. Also, the highest batting average of a regular starter on their team belongs to a pitcher, Jason Marquis, who is batting .385 in 14 at bats. Not to mention the highest on base percentage of a position player is the .415 belonging to their catcher Wilson Ramos with no other active regular player having an OBP over .333. In light of all of this lack of offensive production, do you think the Nationals might want to make an attempt to get in on the bidding of a player that could help them out sooner and/or later?
Besides being a weak hitting team with no lead-off man in sight for the immediate future, its not as if the Nationals’ outfield, as currently constructed, is under-going some sort of youth movement. Mike Morse is 29, Rick Ankiel is 31, Laynce Nix is 30 and, recently signed to a big money seven year deal, Jason Werth is 32 years old. That is old! Obtaining the services of what looks like the 23 year old Cuban version of a skinny Tony Gwinn might be something a GM would want to do to keep the overall “youth” movement of the team going forward. Sure phenom Bryce Harper is going to be joining the outfield as early as next season but wouldn’t it have been great if the team could have a second young guy that could get on base in front of Harper so that he could pick up a few RBI opportunities?
Sure it is way too early to know if Martin is the real deal but the point is that Leonys Martin could be that guy and certainly appears to have a better chance at being that guy than the majority of the outfields the Nationals currently have on their roster.
Sure we don’t know all the behind the scenes discussions between agents and front office types, but the media knew about the Nationals’ discussions with Chapman and so far no one has said any of the same discussions happened with Martin. If Mike Rizzo was too busy celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death at the White House when he could have been making phone calls trying to get another talented young outfielder on his team, then maybe the Nationals need to hire a new GM.
It was painful to miss out on the flamethrower arm of Chapman but at least the Nationals tried. Not making the same attempt to gain the services of Martin, especially in light of the lack of organizational depth and lack of production from the current Major League roster, is practically inexcusable.