There is growing belief that the Dodgers could end up with more than one of the prominently available Cubans. While I’m still not 100 percent sold on the idea, I’m going to break down the possibilities and scenarios around this theory.
First, Ben Badler.
@DustinNosler Hard to put a number on that with any precision, but I do think it's realistic they could sign both.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) February 18, 2015
“Finally, the Dodgers have as much money as they feel like having, but have been restrained this off-season and avoided creating logjams on the roster. They have Howie Kendrick, Juan Uribe, super prospect Corey Seager and Justin Turner playing at Olivera’s positions, so there isn’t a real need in the short term, especially if they end up signing 2B/3B/CF Yoan Moncada as many are expecting. Kendrick has one year left on his deal and Moncada and Seager could be two potential superstar options at Olivera’s positions as soon as next year, not to mention the financial firepower the Dodgers have to add one-year stopgaps like Kendrick if needed. The Dodgers could just sign all of these Cubans, but given the MO thus far of the new management group, I’d expect them to pick Olivera or Moncada and, if they pick Moncada, to further justify the July 2 bonus penalty that would come with that signing by going after Ibanez and/or Alvarez to help soften the blow”
There’s at least a chance the Dodgers could end up with Hector Olivera and Yoan Moncada — something that would definitely increase the talent on the Dodgers’ active roster and minor-league system, respectively.
In my look at him, I said something like $15-18 million would be comfortable. Now comes word Olivera’s price tag could jump significantly from early valuations of $10-20 million.
One exec this morning predicted Hector Olivera will get $45-50M, another, interested, $65-70M. Olivera may be 29, but he can hit.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 17, 2015
OK, so it's five teams over $70M on Hector Olivera. But I still wish the Brothers Gourriel could play in The States
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 17, 2015
Cuban INF Hector Olivera waiting on free agency & can't negotiate. Sources: 5 teams in mix & on pace for $70M+ deal http://t.co/xv9SmcoQCf
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 17, 2015
A $70 million price tag is insane. The Yankees got Chase Headley for $52 million, and he’s a proven player compared to Olivera. Olivera has a chance to be better with the bat, but Headley is an elite defensive third baseman. As for Pablo Sandoval, yes he just got $95 million to play third base for the Red Sox, but there are a couple factors at play:
- He’s younger than Olivera
- He has a proven track record in Major League Baseball
There are questions about Olivera’s alleged age — even the 29-year-old number has some folks questioning it. McDaniel said in the FanGraphs’ podcast on Friday that Olivera could land a larger deal than Yasmany Tomas or Rusney Castillo if he were in the 24-to-27-year-old range. Olivera has no MLB track record and has a significant injury history.
And there are these:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 17, 2015
Los Dodgers cerca de firmar al 2B cubano Hector Olivera pero para jugar en la antesala, tiene bate de grandes ligas.
— Antonio Puesán (@antoniopuesan) February 17, 2015
Loosely translated as:
“The Dodgers close to signing the Cuban 2B Hector Olivera but to play at third base, has bat big leagues.”
Now, Rosenthal and Morosi are just stating the obvious — for the most part.
“Peter Bjarkman, a prominent author and expert on Cuban baseball, reported Monday that he believes free-agent infielder Hector Olivera will sign with the Dodgers.
Bjarkman also reported that a deal between Olivera and the Dodgers is not done. In fact, the commissioner’s office has not yet cleared Olivera to sign with a major-league club.
Separately, major-league sources confirmed to FOX Sports that the Dodgers do, in fact, have strong interest in Olivera, who also is a target of the Oakland Athletics.”
This is the report Rosenthal and Morosi reference in their story. Take it with a grain of salt, but there is a definite connection to the Dodgers and Olivera. Remember, word of an agreement between the Dodgers and Alex Guerrero broke before he was even cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and this situation could be somewhat similar.
Still, I think it’s a ruse — the whole “Andrew Friedman walking down the first base line to get video” of Olivera seems a bit dramatic. But the bat appears to be legitimate and his glove is much better than that of Guerrero.
Speaking of Guerrero — if Olivera is signed, Guerrero’s time on the Dodgers’ roster is all but over. Olivera is a superior prospect to Guerrero and doesn’t have a ridiculous “can’t be optioned to the minors without his permission” clause in his contract. I’m honestly not sure what would happen if Guerrero were designated for assignment. I assume the clause would still be in tact because he’d still be playing under the same contract. If he is claimed by another team while on waivers or traded, I assume that would still apply. But if he’s outright released, he’d have to sign a new contract with another team, making the previous clause null. Seeing as Guerrero is due just $14 million over the next three years, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him released. The Dodgers did eat the $9.5 million on Brian Wilson‘s deal, and he was only signed for a year.
Olivera would compete for a 25-man roster spot out of spring training. At worst, he’d need a month in the minors to get acclimated to professional ball some more. Of course, he should be cleared before spring training games start and should get a little game action in the Cactus League. He won’t displace Juan Uribe as the team’s starting third baseman and he certainly wouldn’t bump Howie Kendrick, but he could fill in at both spots, if needed. He’d likely have some sort of split with Uribe before taking over as the team’s starter next year — provided he’s healthy and performs well enough.
Moncada represents a future investment moreso than Olivera. While Olivera would compete for a 25-man roster spot right out of spring training, Moncada would likely go to High-A to begin his professional career. As a 20-year-old, he would still be younger than league-average and would give fans in Southern California an up-close look at the prospect.
If the Dodgers sign both, a mid-2016/2017 infield could conceivably look like this:
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Yoan Moncada
SS Corey Seager
3B Hector Olivera
That infield would probably be one of the best in the game. That’s what we’re dealing with here. The Dodgers don’t have a lot in the way of third basemen coming up in the minors (outside of Seager), nor do they at shortstop (outside of Seager). Unfortunately, the Dodgers don’t have two Seagers. So, I think they end up with at least one of these two Cubans. If they sign Olivera, I could see them blowing out their international budget for Yadier Alvarez, but he wouldn’t pay immediate dividends as he’s still raw and would need at least a couple years in the minors. Andy Ibanez is the least-impressive of the Cuban quartet, but that isn’t to say he’s without talent. I’m just not sure he’s the kind of player worth having two years of international signing restrictions played on the organization. But if they sign Moncada, they might as well land another guy to make the penalty more efficient/worthwhile.
The Dodgers obviously have the money to afford both (all four, really) players if they wanted to. It’s a case of risk, reward and investment. There is only one starting-caliber infielder under contract for 2016 (and beyond) in Gonzalez. Seager should be ready soon and the front office probably doesn’t think too highly of Erisbel Arruebarrena and Guerrero. Darnell Sweeney is more of a utility player and the other infield prospects in the system are 2-3 years away. That isn’t to say they could bring back Kendrick and/or Uribe next season, but Kendrick is going to cost a nice chunk of change and Uribe will be going into his age-37 season. Also, Justin Turner isn’t a full-time starter. So, it makes some sense for the Dodgers to land both Olivera and Moncada, but I still don’t see it happening — especially with the Yankees lurking on Moncada and the potential $70-million price tag on Olivera.