The Dodgers have dipped into the Cuban market again, agreeing to deals with teenage prospects Yusniel Diaz and Omar Estevez, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because their contracts are pending physical examinations.
Diaz, a 19-year-old outfielder, will receive a $15.5-million bonus, MLB.com reported. Estevez, a 17-year-old infielder, will receive $6 million.
While the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to what is now viewed as a team-friendly deal in 2012 – he was signed for $42 million over seven years – their high-priced Cuban acquisitions since then have not worked out as they envisioned.
Utilityman Alex Guerrero ($28 million) finished his first full season in the major leagues with a .233 average and was excluded from the team’s playoff roster. Shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena ($25 million) didn’t play in a major league game this year.
The results have not improved under Andrew Friedman, who became the team’s president of baseball operations last winter.
The Dodgers signed infielder Hector Olivera to a six-year, $62-million deal this spring, only to trade him to the Atlanta Braves in July.
Around the same time they landed Olivera, the Dodgers signed a right-hander named Pablo Fernandez to a minor-league contract that included an $8-million bonus. Fernandez, 26, pitched in 10 minor league games this year, including four for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, and was 2-1 with a 4.22 earned-run average. Scouts who saw Fernandez described him as underwhelming.
Whereas most of the Dodgers’ high-priced expenditures from Cuba were expected to contribute in the relatively near future, Diaz and Estevez are viewed more as long-term projects.
Because of their ages, Diaz and Estevez are subject to the guidelines for international amateur players.
Counting the deals for Diaz and Estevez, the Dodgers have spent more than $40 million on international amateur players in this current signing period, which opened July 2. The figure includes a $16-million bonus paid to Yadier Alvarez, an 18-year-old right-hander.
The Dodgers will be penalized for their spending spree. They will have to pay a tax on almost the entire $40 million-plus, which would raise the figure of their total investment to more than $80 million.
Furthermore, once the current signing period closes on June 15, they will not be able to sign any international amateur for more than $300,000 for the next two years.