Another week, another hot Cuban prospect. This used to be right in the Dodgers’ sweet spot — Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena — but this past off-season Cuba might as well have been Aruba.
Bright names came and signed elsewhere. Even when scouts were apparently getting all tingly over shortstop Yoan Moncada, the Dodgers loomed and then faded. The shortstop eventually — or at least reportedly — signed with Boston in a deal that will cost the Red Sox approximately $63 million (tax levied by MLB doubles his $31.5-million signing).
Now the hot buzz is for infielder Hector Olivera, who, unlike the 19-year-old Moncada, is supposedly ready to play in the majors right now. This despite a reported elbow concern on his right arm, and after he sat out the 2012-13 season with a blood clot in his nonthrowing left biceps.
The Dodgers have scouted Olivera, 29, extensively and are one of three teams to reportedly have given him a physical. He became eligible to sign Friday. And, of course, he will not come cheaply.
He was supposedly looking for $70 million, which might have scared off several teams concerned about his elbow. He’s since changed agents, so who knows? Moncada was purportedly looking for $40 million to $50 million and signed for plenty less.
The Padres are reportedly considering making Olivera an offer close to $50 million. Now that would be fascinating. The Padres have Jedd Gyorko at second and Will Middlebrooks at third, so they could find him an immediate spot.
Not so for the Dodgers, who have Howie Kendrick at second and Juan Uribe at third. Each is in the last year of his contract, which doesn’t make playing this season any easier for Olivera. And at his age he’s probably looking for immediate playing time.
Everyone seems in agreement that Olivera can hit, there’s just concern how he will hold up over a full season. Last year he returned from his blood clot issue but mostly played designated hitter for his Cuban team, Santiago de Cuba.
So there’s more risk involved with Olivera than most Cuban prospects, though everyone is still waiting for the Daddy Greenbacks of MLB to make a bold move, so a wary eye is constantly kept on the Dodgers. If nothing else, they have other teams constantly looking over their financial shoulders.
The Dodgers are treating Olivera very seriously. For one year they almost acted like Cuba was their private talent pipeline. They have been almost strangely quiet since, which could make his signing very interesting.