Dodgers reportedly may land top Cuban infielder Hector Olivera
Yoan Moncada is not the only Cuban player drawing interest from the Dodgers on the international market.
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.
Also Monday, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported that Olivera "is seeking a five-to-six-year deal that rivals the contracts awarded to Arizona’s Yasmany Tomas (six years, $68.5 million) and Boston’s Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5 million)." Because Olivera is 29, MLB teams will be able to sign him to a major-league contract of any value without paying any penalties.
The Dodgers have signed prominent Cuban players Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena in recent years, but Olivera is not necessarily an easy fit for the Dodgers’ current roster.
Olivera is a major-league-ready infielder, and the Dodgers — with an infield of Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Juan Uribe — do not have an obvious need at any infield position.
If the Dodgers signed Olivera, they almost certainly would play him at third base, then figure out what to do with Uribe, who is set to earn $6.5 million this season in the final year of his contract.
Moreover, the Dodgers have a general interest in acquiring younger talent, rather than players near 30 — a desire manifested in the team’s ongoing pursuit of Moncada, a 19-year-old, switch-hitting infielder who has drawn comparisons with Robinson Cano.
One rival general manager said Monday that the Dodgers and New York Yankees are viewed within the industry as favorites to sign Moncada. Some executives, however, believe that Moncada belongs in the outfield, where his offensive ability would carry less value. Some also question whether he will hit for power.
Earlier this offseason, the Dodgers aggressively pursued Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez, who signed with the Diamondbacks for an $8.25 million bonus. If the Dodgers had added Lopez, they would have exceeded their allotted international bonus pool, perhaps making them even more inclined to seriously pursue Moncada.
Any team that exceeds its pool must pay a 100 percent tax on any other international signing before the June 15 deadline and forfeit the chance to sign any other international player costing more than $300,000 for the next two years.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Rays are the teams besides the D-backs that already have entered the penalty phase. But with so many Cuban players becoming available, the Dodgers might decide that the cost of signing Moncada and losing the chance for others are too great.
Either way, the Dodgers’ vast financial resources give them a substantial advantage over competing clubs. While many teams are at or near their payroll limits, the Dodgers have the wherewithal to invest tens of millions of dollars at a time of year when big spending is rare.
It’s unclear how realistic it would be for the Dodgers to land both Olivera and Moncada. But the Dodgers are the one major-league franchise for whom such lavish spending would appear normal.