Mets invest $1.4 million in Dominican outfielder

The Mets made a major investment in their minor league future on Monday, announcing the signing 16-year-old outfielder Jesus Fernando Martinez to a contract worth approximately $1.4 million.

Martinez, a native of the Dominican Republic, will not be able to play in the United States until 2006. The Mets also signed 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander Deolis Guerra for the 2006 season.

"I'm happy that we are able to bring Deolis and Jesus into the Mets organization," general manager Omar Minaya said in a prepared statement. "Sandy Johnson, Rafael Bournigal and Eddy Toledo have worked extremely hard and did a great job getting these two kids signed.

"Signing them goes in line with our original plan of being active in the international market."

Back home in the Dominican Republic, Martinez – who bats lefthanded and is reputed to have an exceptionally strong right arm, remiscent of Raul Mondesi or Jose Guillen – said even he was surprised by the Mets' big outlay.

"I didn't expect something of this size," Martinez told the Associated Press from his home in Rio San Juan.

Martinez is 6-0, 185 pounds and caused a small stir at the Mets' spring training camp in Port St. Lucie on March 23, when he took batting practice under the supervision of the entire Mets front office, spraying the diamond with line drives.

Guerra is 6-5, 200 pounds and hails from Puerto Ordaz in Venezuela.

Both players are expected to report to the Mets Instructional League team sometime in September.

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