After a lengthy delay stemming from visa issues, the Dodgers on Sunday finalized a six-year contract reportedly worth $30 million with Cuban pitcher Yaisel Sierra. A 24-year-old right-hander, Sierra is expected to report to camp in the next couple days, Manager Dave Roberts said.
The team intends to groom Sierra as a starting pitcher, although president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has floated Sierra's name as a possible aid to the team's bullpen later in the season.
"He has an opportunity to make an impact," Roberts said before a workout at Camelback Ranch. "We still have to see the eye test, and how he adapts as he comes over, but I'm excited."
The statistical resume of Sierra is less than impressive. In five seasons pitching in Cuba's Serie Nacional, he posted a 4.23 earned-run average. He went 5-12 with a 6.10 ERA and 11 saves in 2014 for Holquin.
The Dodgers believe the discrepancy between Sierra's statistics and his talent resulted from his approach in Cuba. Sierra often flung breaking balls from various angles, rather than utilizing his fastball as his primary pitch. Josh Byrnes, the team's vice president for baseball operations, indicated Sierra's fastball can touch 98 mph and his two-seamer sits between 91 and 93 mph.
"Velocity is nice," Byrnes said. "Obviously, that's a nice attraction. But we saw some secondary pitches we liked, a delivery we liked. We liked his makeup. And I think the standout was an explosive two-seamer, at times."
When Sierra makes it to camp, he will be slightly behind his new teammates. He has yet to pitch off a mound this winter, according to Byrnes, who visited with Sierra in Miami about 10 days ago.
Sierra will begin in the minor leagues. In order to advance as a starter, he must improve his command and refine his changeup. The pitch is still a work in progress, Byrnes said.
"He's got a lot of power in his arsenal," Byrnes said. "It's a good delivery. We like his makeup. We've got to keep developing him. He's fairly far along, but he still has some room to grow before we turn him into a major league pitcher."
Montas recovering from surgery
To make room on the 40-man roster for Sierra, the Dodgers shifted pitching prospect Frankie Montas to the 60-day disabled list. Montas underwent rib resection surgery this month after suffering a stress reaction in his rib cage during the off-season.
Montas will miss two to four months. He felt discomfort after a throwing session in January. He is unsure when he can start throwing again.
"I'm just trying to get ready, and come back," Montas said. "And do whatever is possible to help the team."
Barnes takes infield
Catching prospect Austin Barnes will continue to take ground balls and practice working as an infielder, Roberts said. Barnes played infield in college and could aid the Dodgers as a utility player at second base or third base.
"He's athletic and gives a roster flexibility, without a doubt," Roberts said. "To see him taking grounders, I can see that." He added, "In talking to Austin, I think he's open to whatever gets him an opportunity to get to the big leagues."