White Sox sign Luis Martinez, signal shift in international free agent strategy

The White Sox announced the signing of Venezuelan RHP Luis Martinez for $250,000. Here is Baseball America's scouting report:

Martinez, who turns 17 on Jan. 29, is 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and gets good downhill angle on an 88-91 mph fastball that has hit 92, an increase from the 84-88 mph velocity he was showing last summer around July 2. He has a projectable frame with long arms and plenty of room to fill out, so he should have at least a plus fastball in time. Martinez has a solid delivery, a high-70s curveball that is his best secondary pitch and he mixes in a changeup as well.

Martinez is the largest single expenditure on an international amateur free agent since the Dave Wilder scandal years. In 2010, the club signed LHP Jefferson Olacio for $125,000, which, as near as I can tell, was the post-Wilder record.

The Martinez deal was agreed to in December, shortly after the arrival of Marco Paddy to head the club's Latin American operations. It was hoped that hiring Paddy, an experienced and well-connected scout and administrator, represented a change in the organization's thinking on the efficacy of spending on amateur talent. While it is only one signing, it does push the White Sox to about $700,000 in 2011 bonuses. Prior to the signing, the White Sox were on pace to match their 29th place spending in 2010, which totaled $345,000.

The White Sox last ramped up spending in 2007 under the Wilder regime. Unfortunately, many of the signings were at inflated bonuses so that Wilder and his other indicted cronies could skim money off the bonuses. For example, Rafi Reyes was signed for $525,000. It was reported, however, that Reyes received as little as $75,000 of that amount. Reyes spent three years in the White Sox organization, batting .182/.244/.261 for the White Sox Dominican affiliates. He also attempted to be a pitcher, which ended as a failed experiment.

Juan Silverio is another signing from that era, although the $600,000 spent on him may still pay off. After a rocky start to his professional career, he has reached High-A and is kind of a prospect, with Baseball America recently ranking him as the 9th best prospect in the system.

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