The Dodgers have reportedly added an infielder, though perhaps not the one at the front of most people’s minds in recent weeks. The club is nearing a minor league deal with Cuban defector Jose Miguel Fernandez, per multiple reports.
Fernandez turns 29 in April and has eight years of professional experience with Matanzas in La Serie Nacional in Cuba, and thus is exempt from any international bonus limits. The Dodgers are otherwise prohibited from signing any international amateurs to a bonus over $300,000 through June 15, 2018.
The Dodgers will pay Fernandez a $200,000 signing bonus, per Sanchez.
The lefty-hitting Fernandez played second base on the Cuban national team, including in the World Baseball Classic in 2013.
He last played in Cuba in October 2014, and defected in December 2015. He was declared a free agent by MLB in April, when Ben Badler profiled Fernandez for Baseball America:
Among the concerns with Fernandez were his thickening lower half and declining range at second base, but he has lost significant weight since leaving Cuba, another reason why scouts are interested to get an updated look at him.
Given his present hitting ability and on-base skills, Fernandez should be able to quickly step into the top of a major league lineup, though part of his immediate readiness depends on how sharp is after a significant layoff from competitive baseball.
Fernandez with Matanzas hit .319/.403/.423 in eight seasons, including .333/.458/.466 and 16.5% walk rate in his final four seasons in Cuba.
Fernandez played with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League in October and November, hitting .286/.369/.286 in 18 games, and eight walks in 65 plate appearances.
He started 13 games at third base for Aguilas, a team with old friend Rafael Ynoa starting at second base, and was replaced on defense five times late in games. Fernandez also started three times as designated hitter and played two innings at second base late in one game.
Here is video of Fernandez taking batting practice with Aguilas.
While the natural reaction and the timing suggest Fernandez is an alternative to say, Brian Dozier, at second base for the Dodgers, the defensive concerns alone bring enough pause to those thoughts, before even considering his MLB readiness. More likely, Fernandez is a talented player who could eventually contribute to the Dodgers in 2017 and beyond, but more in a utility role while they continue to pursue other options to fill the second base need.