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SEATTLE -- The Texas Rangers officially signed outfielder Leonys Martin, a Cuban defector, Wednesday. He will get a five-year major league contract worth $15.5 million that includes a $5 million signing bonus.
It's the second-largest contract given to a Cuban defector. Hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman got a $30.25 million, six-year deal from the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010.
"It's exciting and pretty unusual to add this kind of talent to the organization in April," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're always looking to add premium ability and premium character to the organization, especially at a premium position that Leonys plays. It's our first foray into the Cuban defector market. Ownership stepped up with significant contract, including a sizeable signing bonus. It shows ownership's commitment not ony at the major league level, but adding talent on both ends of the pipeline."
Daniels said Martin could head to an affiliate some time later this month. That's likely Double-A Frisco. Daniels said the signing was about the long term but added that the club wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in the majors before the 2011 season is over.
Mike Daly, Rangers director of international scouting, described Martin as a solid defender and someone who understands the strike zone and can hit to all fields.
"He's 6-2, 190 pounds and an athletic kid," Daly said. "We feel like he's a plus defender in center field. He can throw, he can run and he's a line drive-type hitter with a knowledge of the strike zone. He can put the ball in the gap. We feel like he can hit, get on base and really defend in center field.
Martin, 23, has been working out with the Rangers in extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz., and will continue to do so.
Martin played for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he was 2 for 7 with three runs as a backup outfielder. He hit .398 in 2007-08 in Cuba, garnering some attention with the second-highest batting average in the league. He also had 13 stolen bases and nine triples.
In 2008-09, Martin batted .311 and had a .491 on-base percentage. He stole 17 bases and was fifth in the league in walks with 78.
Martin could end up with the Rangers at some point later this season, depending on how he progresses in the minors.
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Martin, the Rangers designated right-hander Ramon Aguero for assignment.
Texas has 10 days to trade, release or outright Aguero to the minor leagues. The Rangers got Aguero from Pittsburgh on a waiver claim April 8, and he was a combined 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five appearances for Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco.
The Martin signing raises the question about Julio Borbon's status long-term with the club. Daniels said there's nothing wrong with healthy competition.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law," Daniels said. "Julio is our center fielder. He's swinging the bat better lately. Julio has an opportunity to lay claim to the job for a long time. That's what our hope is. But as we go forward, we're better if we have options or depth. As we've seen this spring, things happen. You think you're set up in one area and some unusual circumstances come about and you're looking to make adjustments on the fly. If we can add talent at a premium position, even if it's duplicative, it gives the club options."Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.