Boy, that Eddy Julio Martinez story has been a strange one, hasn’t it?
From the lack of clarity (more than usual) about his prospect status to the lack of clarity (more than usual) about when he would sign, Martinez’s situation made it more difficult than usual to follow what was coming. We knew that, at least at some point, the Chicago Cubs were interested, and we knew that some scouts believed he was an elite center field prospect.
But how the story has reportedly played out tells us a lot about how much interest was actually out there. I’ve said before that, with respect to Cuban prospects, you sometimes don’t have a great idea of just how well regarded they are until after they sign, and never has that been more true than with Martinez. Once believed to be commanding a bonus in excess of $10 million, Martinez has reportedly signed with the Giants for just $2.5 million:
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) October 4, 2015
And, in an instant, so many things are coming together – why Ben Badler was so (relatively) low on Martinez, why it took Martinez so long after July 2 to sign, why no team seemed to be super hot-and-heavy on him.
Consider this: unlike Dominican and Venezuelan July 2 prospects, whose deals have been negotiated and locked in behind the scenes for months or years in advance of the open of the IFA period, Cuban prospects are much more typical free agents. Further, they tend to be a little older and more polished (Martinez is already 20). Taken together, the market for Cuban free agents is typically more robust, and typically comes with a higher price tag.
And yet Martinez just signed for the same bonus as one of the Cubs’ Dominican prospects (Yonathan Sierra Estiwal), a big strong kid about whom third party analysts seemed to split on whether he merited top 30 consideration.
In other words, it seems that Martinez, once he’d worked out for teams over the past several months, was no longer regarded as an elite tier prospect. That is disappointing in its own right, but certainly takes almost all of the sting out of the Cubs not getting him. Good prospect? Sure. Brutal to not sign? Apparently not.
Don’t forget: there are still a large number of Cuban prospects available for signing, and some are already regarded more highly than Martinez, even by MLB.com, which was previously higher on Martinez than anyone. The Cubs have already blown out their IFA budget and can sign players freely (for the bonus plus a 100% overage tax penalty) between now and June 15. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of their activity.
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