Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers bolster bullpen by trading Leonys Martin to Mariners

Leonys Martin never lived up to the hype after defecting from Cuba and signing with the Rangers in 2011.
Leonys Martin never lived up to the hype after defecting from Cuba and signing with the Rangers in 2011. Star-Telegram

Leonys Martin left the Texas Rangers in October miffed that he wasn’t part of their plans for the American League Division Series.

As of Monday, he isn’t part of the Rangers at all.

The strong-armed center fielder was sent to Seattle along with long man Anthony Bass for proven bullpen piece Tom Wilhelmsen, center fielder James Jones and a player to be named.

The move was said to be about value, with the Rangers fortifying their bullpen with another power arm for a player teams still covet, and general manager Jon Daniels said that he didn’t view Martin as a possible clubhouse distraction for 2016.

This is a chance for us to pick up three players that fit. It’s the first significant move of the off-season, and we like the flexibility that it gives us as well as the depth and the power at the back end of the ‘pen.

General manger Jon Daniels

But the October dust-up contributed to the Rangers’ decision and likely led other clubs to inquire about Martin’s availability.

“Did it factor in some? Yeah, probably a secondary factor,” Daniels said. “But I certainly think we could have gotten past that. It wasn’t something where we thought we had to move him. There was no grudge held or anything like that.”

Martin never lived up to the hype after defecting from Cuba and signing with the Rangers in 2011. Though he has one of the strongest arms in baseball and improved defensively, Martin struggled offensively and in 2015 lost his job as the leadoff man and everyday center fielder to Delino DeShields.

Martin was eventually sent to Triple A Round Rock, where he suffered a broken hamate bone in his right/throwing hand that required surgery. He had only one at-bat with the Rangers in September and was an easy choice to leave off the roster for the American League Division Series.

38 Outfield assists the past three seasons for Leonys Martin, second in the majors and first among center fielders

Martin, who batted only .219, was asked by the club to continue working in Arizona in case he was needed as an injury replacement or for another round, but he refused.

“I think he had an emotional reaction and in my opinion he handled it in the wrong way,” Daniels said.

DeShields hasn’t locked down the everyday job for 2016 but is the clear favorite. Jones could compete for the job, and former first-round pick Lewis Brinson shot through the system in 2015 and is in the discussion.

The incumbent at closer also isn’t a sure thing for next season.

Wilhelmsen has 67 career saves and his mid-90s fastball as part of a four-pitch mix could help him unseat Shawn Tolleson, who last week was voted as the Rangers’ Pitcher of the Year.

67 Career saves for right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen, who was acquired Friday by the Rangers

At the very least, Wilhelmsen will join fellow power arms Keone Kela, Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman as setup men for Tolleson.

“The whole bullpen sets up as a strength,” Daniels said. “It’s a far cry from where we were a year ago and even five months ago. The reality in the game today, unless you’re talking about that elite, elite level, you’re going to need multiple guys.”

Wilhelmsen, who turns 32 on Dec. 16, isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018. Jones, 27, doesn’t even have a full year of service time and is a player the Rangers believe is a late-bloomer who is still developing.

Jones, a pitcher in college, is a quality defensive player, though his arm isn’t as strong as Martin’s, and is a base stealer who was 27 for 28 in steals for the Mariners in 2014.

The player to be named could come after the Rule 5 draft next month. Daniels said it is an important part of the deal.

“This is a chance for us to pick up three players that fit,” Daniels said. “It’s the first significant move of the off-season, and we like the flexibility that it gives us as well as the depth and the power at the back end of the ’pen.”

Trade breakdown

Rangers get

RHP Tom Wilhelmsen: Armed with a mid-90s fastball. ... Has 67 career saves. ... Right-handers have hit only .179 against him in his career.

CF James Jones: Former college pitcher has a strong, accurate arm. ... Stole 27 bases in 28 tries for Mariners in 2014. ... Entered Monday batting .327 in Venezuelan Winter League.

PTBNL: Could come from Rule 5 draft next month.

Mariners get

CF Leonys Martin: 38 outfield assists the past three seasons (second in majors). ... Batted only .219 in 2015 and lost job as everyday player.

RHP Anthony Bass: Was a key piece early in the season in lopsided losses. ... Failed to make roster for American League Division Series.

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