Mets Fail To Recoup Value On Bonus Baby Martinez





NEW YORK—The franchise's one-time right fielder of the future has become a thing of the past.

The Mets lost two-time top prospect Fernando Martinez to the Astros on a mid-January waiver claim, ending the 23-year-old's tumultuous time with the organization. New York removed him from the 40-man roster to make room for veterans Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston.

On the heels of a 106-loss season, Houston used its top waiver priority to claim Martinez, who batted .260/.329/.417 with eight homers in 257 at-bats for Triple-A Buffalo last season. Beset by injuries, he didn't play after Aug. 15 and then went just 2-for-26 (.077) in a short Dominican League stint.

Martinez, who signed for $1.3 million in 2005, ranked as New York's top prospect in 2008-09 before slipping to third in 2010. That year he ranked ahead of Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada.

But while that quartet carved out big league roles, an injury-plagued Martinez appeared in just 134 games for Buffalo during the past two seasons and went 8-for-40 (.200) during brief callups to Queens.

Heading into 2011, the new front office hoped to evaluate Martinez during a full season at Triple-A.

"In the last two years, he physically has been unable to show us (that he can be counted upon)," said one team official.

With Martinez out of the picture, the Mets could turn to minor leaguers Mike Baxter or Adam Loewen if they require a lefty-hitting corner outfielder in 2012.

Injuries prevented Martinez from fulfilling his promise. In recent years he's been hobbled by arthritic knees, bum hamstrings and back trouble. He never has played more than 90 games in a season.

Equally troubling, the organization's old regime shuttled Martinez through the system. He served as a regular in Double-A at age 18 but then stagnated in four subsequent seasons, batting .273/.331/.453 in 1,008 at-bats in the high minors.

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets fortified their organizational middle-infield depth by signing Triple-A shortstops Sean Kazmar and Omar Quintanilla to minor league deals.

• They also signed righthanders Fernando Cabrera and Jeff Stevens and lefty Chuck James to supply bullpen depth.