The Next Big Cuban Prospect Might Become Eligible Right When the Cubs Shed Their Restrictions

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The Next Big Cuban Prospect Might Become Eligible Right When the Cubs Shed Their Restrictions

Chicago Cubs

Although the Cubs big league team is pretty much right in the thick of its competitive window, their Minor League organization has taken some hits over the past two years.

Either by way of promotion (Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, others) or trade (Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, others), the Cubs system has “lost” a ton of top prospects lately. And because they had no first or second round picks in 2016 and a couple back-of-the-first-round picks in 2017, they haven’t quite been able to replenish the system as often and quickly as they used to either.

Of course, one of the other ways teams can replenish their farm system is by adding young, international talent via free agency. Of course, the Cubs have been in the IFA penalty box (restricted to handing out bonuses worth $300,000 or less) over the last two years too – so that’s mostly been them just doing what they can.

Fortunately, those restrictions will finally be lifted this July … which is right when one of Cuba’s top young talents may become eligible.

Meet 21-year-old Cuban prospect Julio Pablo Martinez:

Martinez, 21, has reportedly left Cuba, established a residence in Haiti, and begun his pursuit of a contract with a Major League team. But I know what you’re wondering … How good is he?

Well, according to Baseball America, Martinez is one of the top young players in Cuba and hit .333/.469/.498 with 52 walks, just 30 strikeouts, and 24 stolen bases in Cuba’s highest league … as a 20/21-year old center fielder last season. WANT.

He’s technically in a position to make himself available to teams during this period (which would make it difficult for the Cubs to sign him), but because most clubs have already spent a majority of their bonus pools and the others are saving powder for Shohei Otani, most analysts (including the folks at Baseball America) are guessing that he’ll wait until next period to become a free agent:

If he does end up waiting for the next period (which feels like the smart bet, given how much more he can earn and how close that is to now), you can bet your butt the Cubs will be all over him.

Moreover, Baseball America suggests that, based on his present ability, he’ll probably start his career off in High-A or Double-A, which would be perfect for a young Cubs team with more openings and needs in the Minors (i.e. the future) than the Majors right now.

So set your phasers to WANT, because there’s a new free agent prospect in town and the Cubs could be as involved as anyone.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami