In past few years, Cuba has suffered from many baseball players leaving the island to try their luck in America. As a result, Cuban baseball is deteriorating. Proof of that? What about the 14-1 defeat by the Kingdom of the Netherlands during the 2017 WBC? A new player has decided to leave the socialist republic and try to break into the Major League.
The most recent example of a player leaving Cuba to break into the Majors is Julio Pablo Martinez, a 21-year old outfielder, who was a rising star in Cuban baseball. Nevertheless, he was kept off Cuba’s WBC roster but was part of junior national leagues, earning spots on the 18U junior national team that played in Mexico in 2014 and the previous year in Taiwan.
Martinez is a 5-foot-10, 180 pounds lefty with a promising combination of power and speed. Last season in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, Martinez hit .333/.469/.498 in 264 plate appearances with 52 walks, 30 strikeouts, six home runs and 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts. Based on his present ability, it is likely MLB organizations will place him at A-Advanced or AA.
Before he will be eligible to sign a contract, he must establish residency in another country and then wait for MLB to approach him and clear him to sign. Because of his age, he will be subject to the international bonus pools. When you look to the recent timetable for other Cuban signings, Martinez shouldn’t have a problem getting cleared to sign during the current 2017-18 signing period, which opened on July 2 and closes next year on June 15.
But in Martinez’ case, there may be a bump. Nowadays teams do have hard caps on their international bonus pools, but many have already spent either most if not nearly all of their current 2017-18 bonus pools. There are clubs with more pool space remaining for this signing period, such as the Yankees and Rangers but it is likely they will spend that money on Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani who has been allowed to file for a contract with an MLB club by the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Teams are allowed to trade for up to an additional 75 percent of their original pool money so teams with a $4.75 million pool can trade for up to a little more than $8.3 million, while teams with the highest pools at $5.75 million could trade for an amount just above $10 million.
With that and the Ohtani situation in mind, Martinez can opt to wait for the 2018-2019 signing period, which will open on July 2, 2019.