Rangers to sign Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin for $15 million

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Last week the Rangers were said to be close to signing Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin and now Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the deal could be finalized as soon as today.

According to Grant the 23-year-old center fielder “is expected to receive a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $15 million” and will also get a spot on the 40-man roster as part of a major-league contract. Despite the MLB deal he’s expected to start out at Single-A or Double-A.

Most everyone seems to agree that Martin is a good prospect, but his star potential draws mixed reviews. Here’s part of a scouting report from John Manuel of Baseball America:

He’s a left-handed 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 … 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.

Is a speed-and-defense center fielder with limited power worth a $15 million signing bonus? I have no idea, but six months ago Manuel speculated that Martin “figures to garner a seven-figure signing bonus.” Now, “seven figures” could have meant $1 million or $9 million, but either way Martin is going to end up with significantly more upfront money than expected when he first defected from Cuba and Julio Borbon should probably start looking over his shoulder.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.