Dodgers sign Cuban infielder Hector Olivera
Hector Olivera waited two months to finalize his agreed-upon six-year, $62.5-million contract with the Dodgers. The Cuban infielder said Tuesday he doesn’t expect to wait that long to play in his first major league game.
“In three or four weeks, I’ll be ready,” Olivera said in Spanish on a conference call.
A former offensive standout on the Cuban national team, the 30-year-old Olivera will report in the coming days to the Dodgers’ spring-training complex in Arizona to work out for about a week.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, said Olivera will play his first official games with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. After a few days, the plan is for Olivera to join triple-A Oklahoma City.
Friedman said he envisioned Olivera reaching the major leagues this season.
“We feel very confident he’s going to come up at some point this year and be an option for us and help us win games,” Friedman said.
However, Friedman said he was uncertain about what position Olivera would play.
Olivera was primarily a second baseman in Cuba, but that position won’t open up on the Dodgers until at least the winter, when Howie Kendrick becomes a free agent. Olivera also spent time at the Dodgers’ academy in the Dominican Republic working out at third base.
“I’ll play wherever they put me,” said Olivera, who mentioned that he is also comfortable playing first base.
Olivera downplayed concerns about his right elbow, which concerned the Dodgers enough for them to insist on including a clause that protects them against the possibility of a major injury. If Olivera has Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers would be able to extend the deal by a year for another $1 million.
Asked what prompted him to spend $62.5 million on a 30-year-old player with rumored elbow problems, Friedman replied, “The market.”
Olivera said his options consisted of five teams, among them the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. Olivera said he chose the Dodgers because of the Cuban players already in the organization, including Yasiel Puig and Alex Guerrero. Olivera’s father was Puig’s hitting coach in Cuba.
To clear a spot for Olivera on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated left-hander Eury De La Rosa for assignment.
The Dodgers also completed a minor league deal with 25-year-old Cuban right-hander Pablo Fernandez that includes an $8-million bonus. Fernandez was primarily a reliever in Cuba, but Friedman said the Dodgers plan to turn him into a starter.
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