MLB's international free agent signing period began on Monday, opening the floodgates for a slew of young, overseas talent to sign minor league deals with teams. As baseball becomes more and more global, the international free agent pool has become an essential part of teams' farm systems and player development. Ronald Acuña Jr., Shohei Ohtani, and Juan Soto were all signed as international free agents .
The signing window is open until mid-December 2024, but teams usually get the bulk of their work done at the beginning of the year. The Texas Rangers signed 23 new prospects in total, three of whom were ranked among MLB Pipeline's top 50. Dominican outfielder Paulino Santana was ranked No. 2 overall, and he signed with the Rangers for a $1.3 million bonus. They also secured shortstops Curley Martha (No. 29) and Yolfran Castillo (No. 46).
After Martha's signing with the Rangers for a $800,000 bonus, highlights of him representing Curaçao in the Little League World Series started to crop up. He was 13 at the time and was responsible for the game-winning two-run home run that saw Curaçao beat out Japan for the championship.
Rangers international free agent signee’s Little League World Series highlights are insane
During the 2019 tournament, Martha hit three home runs and put together 10 minutes worth of offensive and defensive highlights during Curaçao's routs against Australia, South Korea, Venezuela, and finally a close championship game against Japan. MLB Pipeline emphasizes his bat speed and power, which was on full displaying in the LLWS. Only a handful of major leaguers have come from Curaçao, including active players Ozzie Albies, Kenley Jansen, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Jurickson Profar, who also got his start in the Rangers' farm system as an international free agent.
International free agents are typically very young when they initially sign (all of MLB Pipeline's top 50 players are 16 or 17), so we won't see Martha in the major leagues for some time. However, his existing highlights give Rangers fans a lot to look forward to in the coming years as he progresses through a minor league system that saw multiple homegrown players, including Evan Carter and Josh Jung, come through for the team in their World Series victory last year.