Even after eight-figure investments in the likes of Hector Olivera and Erisbel Arruebarrena resulted in disappointing returns, the Dodgers continue to spend big money on Cuban players.
The Dodgers are close to making another $30-million agreement, a six-year deal with right-hander Yaisel Sierra, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract has not been finalized.
Sierra, 24, has a mid-90s fastball but had a 6.10 earned-run average as a reliever in his last season in Cuba’s league.
The Dodgers are expected to develop Sierra as a starting pitcher, at least initially. Sierra was a starter and reliever over his five seasons in the Cuban league.
The contracts of Alvarez and Diaz were taxed at close to 100%, but Sierra’s won’t be because his age and experience in the Cuban league make him exempt from international amateur signing guidelines.
Sierra has drawn comparisons to Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds, who was 3-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 games last year, including 16 starts.
Sierra participated in a Florida showcase event in October, where he pitched three perfect innings against high school-age players. His fastball touched 96 mph that day, according to Baseball America. Sierra told the publication he was pleased with the development of his secondary pitches.
“I worked 24/7 for my slider and changeup,” he said through translator and former big leaguer Alex Sanchez. “I was very excited to throw my slider and changeup because they don’t throw that kind of pitch in Cuba.”
Front office grows
Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ move to the Dodgers as a vice president of baseball operations was announced Tuesday.
Anthopoulos, 38, will work alongside Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes, who were also general managers for other clubs before joining the Dodgers.
Anthopoulos said he is confident there will be enough for him to do.
“You’re talking about a large-market club that can play in any field, in any market,” Anthopoulos said. “There isn’t anything that these guys can’t do or can’t be involved in.”
The Dodgers acquired minor league infielder Erick Mejia from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-hander Joe Wieland. Mejia, 21, is not on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.
To arbitration they go
Six Dodgers filed for salary arbitration: closer Kenley Jansen, catcher Yasmani Grandal, third baseman Justin Turner, outfielder Scott Van Slyke, and relievers Luis Avilan and Chris Hatcher.
Jansen earned $7.4 million last season, saving 36 games despite missing the season’s first 34 games following foot surgery. He’s expected to earn at least $11 million in arbitration.
Turner had a breakout season at age 30 last year, hitting .294 in 126 games, with 16 home runs and 60 runs batted in. Turner, who had knee surgery in October, earned $2.5 million in 2015 and is expected to earn more than $5 million this season.
Grandal, Van Slyke, Hatcher and Avilan will be going through the arbitration process for the first time.
Teams and players are scheduled to exchange salary figures by Friday. If a contract is not agreed upon, arbitration hearings are scheduled to begin in February. The Dodgers have not had to go to an arbitrator hearing since 2007.
Correspondent Steve Dilbeck contributed to this report.