Texas Rangers rumors: Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners and former Texas Ranger, has been designated for assignment today. The M’s have 10 days to waive, trade or release Martin.
Leonys was originally signed by the Rangers in May, 2011, at the age of 23 to a 5 year, $15.5 million major league contract. Leonys was a Cuban defector who has since been the subject of much attention as being the subject of a human smuggling ring that held Leonys captive until his contract could be negotiated. Leonys took over as the Rangers’ everyday center fielder in 2013, and while his bat never progressed as much as the Rangers hoped, he was a very good defender in center field, and from 2013-14 was worth 8.1 bWAR, largely on the strength of his glove and his baserunning.
He had an awful 2015 season, however, that saw him lose his starting job to Delino DeShields and get demoted, ending the season on the disabled list, and refusing to go to Arizona to work out just in case he was needed after the team opted to not include him on the playoff roster.
He then was a centerpiece of one of those “didn’t work out for anyone” trades in the 2015-16 offseason, as he, along with Anthony Bass, was sent to the M’s in exchange for outfielder James Jones, pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen, and minor league outfielder Patrick Kivlehan. Seattle sold Bass to the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan before the 2016 season started. Jones was non-tendered by the Rangers, re-signed to a minor league deal, was converted to pitching, and then tore his UCL, resulting in Tommy John surgery. Wilhelmsen was incredibly bad in the Rangers bullpen, and ultimately was released. Kivlehan struggled at AAA Round Rock, and ended up getting DFA’d by the Rangers.
In any case, Leonys was okay for Seattle last year, although both UZR and DRS had him as around average rather than above average with the glove, and he put up a .302 OPS in 58 plate appearances this year before the M’s decided to cut bait with him today.
I said in the offseason I thought Leonys would be a good fit for the Rangers bench this year — a quality defensive center fielder who can pinch run and give Carlos Gomez a day off every once in a while. At $4.85 million for 2017 (which the M’s will be on the hook for if another team doesn’t take him), that’s more than you’d want to pay for a 25th man, but if the M’s were to pay, say, half of Leonys’s salary, I’d be interested in the Rangers trading for him.
I know the objection is that the Rangers already have Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar and Delino DeShields, none of whom is getting as much playing time as you’d like, and if Joey Gallo sticks around when Adrian Beltre returns, the left field situation gets even more crowded. However, I think Leonys has more utility to the club than Delino does — he’s a better defender, and as a lefthanded hitter, allows you to spot him against tough righties when you want to give Gomez a day off. DeShields is a better baserunner, but Leonys still has value as a pinch runner, and DeShields isn’t really well suited for center anyway. I’d be inclined to send DeShields down to play every day, let Profar and Rua platoon in left field (at least until Beltre returns), and use Leonys as a defensive replacement/pinch runner off the bench.
I doubt that happens...I suspect Leonys clears waivers and is outrighted to AAA Tacoma, where he will collect his paycheck and play every day until the M’s decide they want to bring him back. But I do think its something worth considering, given the make up of the roster, and the extra 40 man roster spots currently available.