While most of the focus on available or soon-to-be-available Cuban infielders has focused on Yoan Moncada, and rightfully so, there is another potential player in second baseman Hector Olivera, and the Dodgers are reportedly interested.
Olivera is 29, 10 years older than Moncada, and with over five years of experience in a professional league is not subject to international bonus pool signing limits. So instead of incurring a 100-percent tax like with Moncada, Olivera will secure a major league contract, and in the Dodgers' case subject to the competitive balance tax of 40 percent in 2015 and 50 percent for each year after that the Dodgers continue to be over the threshold (set at $189 million in 2015-2016, for instance).
Several teams lined up to watch Olivera's second showcase in the Dominican Republic on Friday, and the infielder didn't disappoint, hitting a pair of home runs and an opposite-field double.
"Of all the teams at the showcase today, the Dodgers had the most notable presence," wrote Ben Badler at Baseball America. "Dodgers vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes, VP of amateur and international scouting David Finley and director of player personnel Galen Carr were all there."
Olivera hit .316/.412/.474 for Santiago in La Serie Nacional in Cuba in 2013-2014 in 73 games, though per Baseball America played only 29 games at second base. Prior to that, Olivera hadn't played in any international tournaments nor for Santiago since 2011-2012.
In parts of 10 seasons for Santiago, Olivera has hit .323/.407/.505 with 96 home runs and 167 doubles in 642 games, nearly the length of four full major league seasons.
He left Cuba in September, and per Badler has established residency in Haiti. But unlike Moncada, MLB has not yet declared Olivera a free agent, though that appears to only be a formality.
Sources tell me Cuban INF Hector Olivera petitioned MLB for free agency two weeks ago & it has not been granted yet. He's waiting ...— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 5, 2015
Olivera is 6'2, 220 pounds, and it is unknown exactly where he would play in the majors.
"Olivera has a live bat and may still be able to play up the middle in the big leagues," wrote Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs in October, "but he hasn’t been scouted in years since he hasn’t played in any international tournaments in that period, the only way MLB teams can see Cuban players in person."
Though Olivera returned to play in the 2013-2014 season, his absence the year before was reportedly for medical reasons, per Badler:
While it’s difficult to verify medical information on Cuban players, according to Cuban media reports, Olivera had thrombosis in his left biceps, a condition that blocks blood flow and can be serious.
Olivera hit .313/.389/.500 (5-for-16) in four games in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, including this home run:
He is scheduled to have a third showcase in the Dominican Republic next Wednesday, per Badler.