The Dodgers have agreed to sign Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz to a $15.5MM deal, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Furthermore, the Dodgers and Omar Estevez have agreed to a pact that will pay the infielder $6MM. When considering the 100 percent luxury tax the Dodgers will have to pay on each player due to the fact that they’ve already shattered their league-allotted international bonus pool, Los Angeles will be paying a combined $43MM or so to add the pair of prospects to its ranks.
Even though he’s only 18, Diaz has been known in Cuban baseball circles for years thanks to his offensive prowess while playing center field in Cuba, Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required and recommended) wrote earlier this year. In fact, as a 14-year-old in Cuba’s 16-and-under league, Diaz garnered the attention of scouts when he slashed .367/.519/.517 across 80 plate appearances. In his writeup, Badler praised Diaz for his athleticism, speed, and his production in Serie Nacional, where he faced competition at his own age level as well as veteran talents. Despite having seen time in the corner outfield in the past, Diaz’s best position is center field and that’s where Badler sees him playing at the major league level.
Diaz likely would have been chosen as Serie Nacional’s Rookie of the Year in 2015 but that award went to another player after he defected from Cuba in April. In August, Major League Baseball issued a memo to all teams announcing that Diaz was free to sign. Badler ID’d the Dodgers as one of the logical destinations for Diaz at the time since they were one of the clubs that were already over their 2015-16 bonus pools and facing spending restrictions starting on July 2 next year. The Dodgers will be handcuffed from spending more than $300K on any international player during the next two periods, so they essentially decided to go out with a bang before entering their penalty period.
Estevez, meanwhile, “showed above-average power in games and solid raw power in batting practice,” Sanchez writes. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm out there, he does have good instincts for the second base position. The Dodgers’ international haul for the 2015-16 period has been rather expensive between Diaz, Estevez, Cuban right-handed pitcher Yadiel Alvarez ($16MM), outfielder Starling Heredia ($2.6MM), infielder Ronny Brito ($2MM), outfielders Christopher Arias ($500K) and Carlos Rincon ($350K), and shortstop Oneal Cruz ($950K). That grouping along cost more than $87MM when factoring in luxury tax expenditures, although by Sanchez’s count, the Dodgers have signed 28 international prospects since the signing period began on July 2.