Rangers Reportedly Close to Signing Cuban Outfielder

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Since Julio Borbon continues to come up short in his quest to be the answer to the Rangers' need for a full-time center fielder, the team isn't wasting time coming up with other contenders for the job. 

Multiple outlets are reporting that the Rangers are close to signing Cuban defector Leonys Martin to a contract.

Martin, a reserve on the 2009 World Baseball Classic team, defected during the FISU World University Championships in Taiwan last year and it is expected that the 23-year-old would start playing for Double-A Frisco if he does indeed sign a contract with the organization.

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When Martin first defected, John Manuel of Baseball America wrote up a profile of his skills. He's described as a lefty hitter with plus speed and a good glove. He doesn't have much power but Manuel has good things to say about his ability to handle the bat in hit and run situations. He posted a .492 on-base percentage during his last season in the Cuban league, drawing 78 walks that indicate he's got a patient approach at the plate.

How well all of those things will translate at the big league level is a giant question mark. There have been success stories and tremendous failures among the Cuban players who have come over to play in the U.S. and there hasn't been much about their backgrounds that makes it possible to figure out who will make it on this side of the Atlantic.

We don't know what the Rangers will be shelling out to secure Martin's services, although Manuel speculated that he'd be worth a seven-figure signing bonus. That sounds like a lot for a gamble on a player who could well wind up being a fourth outfielder, but it is a good move for two reasons.

The first is that it shows the Rangers are totally past the empty pocketbook days of the end of the Tom Hicks regime. You don't want to just throw money at every passing fancy, because then you wind up like Hicks, but you have to be aggressive in all phases of player acquisition to remain a competitive team. 

Martin also makes sense because he wouldn't seem to be all that far away from the big leagues. Borbon may yet get the hang of this job, but if he doesn't it behooves the Rangers to have another option with a similar skill set to try in his stead. They clearly don't want Josh Hamilton playing center every day so they need to have viable other options if and when they decide to make a change.

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