The Dodgers continue to aggressively pursue pitching depth, reportedly in agreement with Cuban right-hander Yaisel Sierra on a six-year contract, per Jon Heyman. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported a deal was close.
The club has not yet announced any deal, which is presumably pending a physical.
Sierra could be the third significant pitching addition made by the Dodgers in the last two weeks. Free agent left-hander Scott Kazmir signed a three-year, $48 million contract on Dec. 30, and Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda signed an eight-year, $25 million contract with loads of incentives on Jan. 7.
Sierra, who turns 25 in 2016, became a free agent on Dec. 28, per Sanchez. Sierra spent five seasons in La Serie Nacional in Cuba, and is not subject to international bonus limits.
That means the Dodgers won't have to pay a 100-percent overage tax on their contract with Sierra, the result of having already committed over $88 million, including penalties, for international amateurs during the current international signing period, which runs from July 2, 2015 through June 15, 2016. Instead, Sierra will presumably occupy a 40-man roster spot and his salary will be subject to the competitive balance tax, which will cost the Dodgers 50 percent for everything over $189 million in 2016.
The 6'1, 170-pound right-hander was ranked by Baseball America in October as the 13th-best prospect still in Cuba, with Ben Badler noting that, "When Sierra is at his best, he has the look of a mid-rotation starter."
Sierra had a 4.23 ERA in five years in Cuba, with 221 strikeouts and 166 walks in 300 innings, though most of his work came out of the bullpen, with 106 relief appearances and 25 starts. Eighteen of those starts came in the 2013-2014 season, but in 2014-2015 Sierra moved back into the bullpen for Holguin. He struck out 55 in 62 innings with 31 walks (22 unintentional), but also had a 6.10 ERA.
There were control issues as well with seven hit batsmen and 11 wild pitches in those 62 innings. Badler expounded:
Despite being a reliever, Sierra led the league with 11 wild pitches. While some pitchers can get away with pitching from multiple arm angles, Sierra might be better served sticking with one slot and working to repeat his mechanics, which should help his fastball command.
But he impressed scouts at an exhibition in Jupiter, Fla. in October, retiring all nine batters he faced, including four strikeouts. Sierra averaged 94.7 mph on his fastball in that outing, per Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America, reaching 96 mph in his final two innings and showing off secondary pitches as well.
"I worked 24/7 for my slider and changeup," Sierra told Baseball America's Teddy Cahill 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."
Most scouts believe Sierra can help a Major League team next season. He could command a contract comparable to the seven-year, $27 million deal the Reds awarded Cuban starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias last summer and the four-year, $32 million deal starter Jose Contreras signed with the Yankees in 2002.
It is unclear whether the Dodgers would use Sierra as a starter or in relief, but if signed would given them another viable option to potentially contribute to the major league team at some point in 2016.