Highly-touted Cuban infielder Hector Olivera hasn't yet been declared a free agent by MLB, but once that happens the 29-year-old expects a Brinks truck, it seems, and the Dodgers are interested, if not the favorites for his services.
Olivera is seeking a five- or six-year contract, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, with money similar to contracts signed in the last six months by Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5 million) and Yasmany Tomas (six years, $68.5 million). On Tuesday, Peter Gammons talked to two executives, one who predicted Olivera will get $45-50 million and another who guessed $65-70 million.
The Dodgers are reportedly the favorites to land Olivera, with Peter Bjarkman of BaseballdeCuba.com reporting Olivera is expected to sign with Los Angeles, though it is important to note that Olivera has not yet been cleared by MLB to sign, or negotiate, yet with teams.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi at Fox Sports characterized the Dodgers as having "strong interest" in Olivera, with the Athletics also in pursuit. Sanchez listed the Yankees, Braves, Marlins and Padres having interest in Olivera along with the Dodgers, with the Dodgers, Yankees and Marlins the most likely destinations.
Since Olivera is 29 and has well over the five requisite years of experience in a professional league - he played 10 seasons in La Serie Nacional in Cuba - he can sign a major league contract and is not subject to international bonus pools like other potential Dodgers rumored targets Yoan Moncada, Yadier Alvarez and Andy Ibanez.
Should Olivera sign with the Dodgers, his contract would count toward the competitive balance tax. The Dodgers will pay 40 percent on any payroll in 2015 over $189 million, a figure they have already surpassed. Any subsequent years over the threshold would mean a 50-percent tax, a virtual certainty with $152 million already committed to 10 players in both 2016 and 2017.
Olivera is also major league ready, or very close to it, so adding him would make an immediate impact. The question is where.
The most likely answer seems like third base, though the Dodgers do have an incumbent there in Juan Uribe, one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball coming off hitting .295/.334/.439, a 118 OPS+, over the last two years combined. Uribe also turns 36 in March and has started 102 and 98 games the last two seasons, so there is certainly ample reason to think there could be an abundance of playing time available at the hot corner in 2015.
There are still various questions surrounding Olivera: his health history is checkered; he's still not free to sign, so depending on when he eventually signs he might need extra time to get ready for the season; and by the time Olivera can sign the Dodgers may have added one or both of Moncada or Ibanez, both infielders as well.
But if Andrew Friedman, Josh Byrnes and the gang were impressed enough at the multiple Olivera showcases they attended, and if the Dodgers are half as high on Olivera as Ben Badler of Baseball America is, the team will add an impact bat through the latter portion of his prime years.
With Uribe, Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick all free agents after 2015, and Corey Seager the only relatively sure thing waiting to take one of those position, the Dodgers have a lot of flexibility to add multiple players. Even if it creates some temporary discomfort with a roster crunch in 2015, the long-term benefits are there for adding Olivera, if the price is right.