Yasiel Puig isn’t expected to play in the major leagues this season. He might not even be ready next season.
But the Dodgers’ agreement to sign the 21-year-old Cuban outfielder might be the most significant statement by the team’s new ownership group to date -- and that includes the recent contract extension they signed with Andre Ethier.
That would be the largest contract ever signed by a Cuban amateur. That is about five times as much money as the once-bankrupt Dodgers have spent on all of their international signings over the last decade.
Re-establishing the Dodgers in the international market was a stated priority of Guggenheim Baseball, which bought the team this spring. The Dodgers made a strong run at another Cuban defector earlier this month, 20-year-old Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30-million contract with the Chicago Cubs
The agreement was confirmed by Puig’s agent, Jaime Torres, who described Puig as a five-tool player.
“He looks like a football player,” Torres said. “He looks like a linebacker with a defensive back’s speed.”
Puig hasn’t played in a game in more than a year. Until he worked out for teams in Mexico City last week, he hadn’t held a bat in more than five months.
That’s because he was suspended from the Cuba’s top-flight league for attempting to defect from the communist island. In his last season, in 2010-11, Puig hit .330 with 17 home runs and 47 runs batted in.
Puig was a member of Cuba’s national team.
Puig figures to begin his American baseball experience in Arizona, where the Dodgers have their spring training complex as well as a rookie league club. Because Puig has been inactive for so long, the Dodgers aren’t expected to rush him. If he transitions well, he could play in the Arizona Fall League, a finishing school for baseball’s top prospects.
Puig’s contract includes a provision that would allow him to void the deal and opt into salary arbitration with the Dodgers after he has accumulated three years of major league service time.