Dodgers Now

Dodgers just brought the 'wow' factor with signing of Hector Olivera

Dodgers have reached agreement with Cuban infielder Hector Olivera for $62.5 million spread over six years

And then suddenly, not so quiet.

Aside from a predictable injury or so, the Dodgers have been going about their business this spring all workmanlike, all professional, and let it be said, on the dull side.

That changed Tuesday with the news they had reached agreement with Cuban infielder Hector Olivera for a $62.5-million deal spread over six years that includes a stunning $28 million signing bonus.

Wow. A very big, wow. An almost are-you-kidding-me wow, only not quiet.

That is easily the most money the Dodgers have spent on a free agent this off-season. Previously their biggest get was right-hander Brandon McCarthy for $48 million. Of course, there was the $32 million they sent the Padres with Matt Kemp.

But the Olivera signing is something else. That’s a serious commitment for someone who turns 30 the day before the season opener, has never played anywhere in the major league system and reportedly has a UCL issue in his right throwing elbow.

You spend that kind of money on someone, you expect them to play immediately and have an impact. Only for now, however, the Dodgers’ lineup is set and this looks more like a play for the future.

Remember, team baseball operations President Andrew Friedman, General Manager Farhan Zaidi and baseball operations Senior Vice President Josh Byrnes all came from small-market teams. They’ve never had money like this to spend before. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how they spend it.

They passed on right-hander James Shields ($75 million with Padres), supposedly over concerns he can’t keep throwing 200 innings forever, though he has for the last eight consecutive years. He’s 3½ years older than Olivera. They passed on Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada ($63 million with Red Sox) and he’s only 19 (though he would have limited them to spending $300,000 in international signings in each of the next two years; because of his age and experience, Olivera does not).

Olivera still has to get his visa out of Haiti, no simple feat, then will have to get in shape and play some minor-league games somewhere. He can play third and second, and the outfield. The Dodgers reportedly see him more as a third baseman, Juan Uribe's position.

Uribe – like second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Jimmy Rollins – is in the last year of his contract. Uribe turned 36 on Sunday and has struggled this spring (.226, one double, no homers, three RBI), but did hit .311 last season.

What Olivera most certainly does give the Dodgers is flexibility and options with all that infield uncertainty next season. Maybe they let Uribe and Rollins walk, put Olivera at third, re-sign Kendrick and call up Corey Seager at shortstop. Or it could prove some other combination. They’ve at least widened their range of possibilities.

Scouts rave about Olivera’s tools and he has long been considered one of Cuba’s premier players. Guess he’d better be. You can worry about how he’ll fit in this season, but by the time he’s ready, who knows what the situation will be? They may need him.

Most of the time, all these unknowns have a way of working themselves out. Not always (witness too many starting outfielders), but most of the time. And if anything, for now it is not dull.

 

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