If there has been one word to sum up the Dodgers offseason thus far, I think the one I would choose is depth.
With big names like Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez headed out of town, the front office’s goal has seemingly been to strengthen the team’s 40-man roster from the bottom up. As I’ve said before, the goal is to avoid being in a place where you have to trade actual players for Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez.
Which brings us to the 6-year, $62.5 million signing of soon-to-be 30-year-old third baseman Hector Olivera.
If you’ve followed the Olivera saga, it seems as if his name has been run through the rumor mill for months. He was linked for the early portion of 2015 with Yoan Moncada, whom the Dodgers were also reportedly interested in, but while Moncada signed with Boston two weeks ago, Olivera remained unsigned.
Until this morning.
With Jimmy Rollins, Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick all potentially gone after this season, the Dodgers infield would seem to be in flux. Corey Seager should arrive next year (if not sooner), but the question of who will play on either side of him in 2016 and beyond had remained a mystery.
Of course, Kendrick could easily return next year, Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero will still be under contract, and there is always the option of spending more money in free agency, but all of those options create uncertainty.
Which brings us back to Olivera — a player that comes with some uncertainty of his own.
After hitting a home run with their first major Cuban signing in Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers have spent $53 million on Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena — two players who have yet to make a significant contribution at the Major League level.
I want to be clear: I’m in no way implying that all Cubans are the same or even that they all face the same challenges, I’m simply stating that signing a player from a foreign league has its risks and Olivera is no exception.
The good news for the Dodgers, however, is that with the way they are built, there will be little pressure on Olivera to contribute immediately. The assumption is that he’ll get some time in the Minor Leagues to adjust, while Juan Uribe mans third base in Los Angeles. If Uribe continues his play from the past two seasons — stellar defense and an OPS of .770 — then Olivera will be able to take his time in developing.
When he is ready, however, scouts seem to think that Olivera has a bright future in the majors. In a comparison to Yasmany Tomas, a recent signee of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ben Badler of Baseball America stated that he believes Olivera is the better all-around player. Most of that praise comes from his bat, as he hit over .300 in nine of his 10 seasons in Cuba with a little bit of power.
In all, to say that Olivera is anything other than mysterious would be presumptuous. He’s a risk, but a risk that many believe is worth taking — especially for a team with a bottomless wallet and some holes in the infield. In 2015, Olivera will provide the Dodgers with a fantastic insurance policy on the infield.
In 2016? Well, for $62.5 million, I suppose we could hope for slightly more than that.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Corey Seager