FEBRUARY 21: The Dodgers announced the completion of the deal. Sierra will earn a $6MM signing bonus and then salaries of $1MM, $2.5MM, $3.5MM, $4MM, $5.5MM, and $7.5MM, per another Heyman tweet. He will have the ability to opt into salary arbitration if he becomes eligible.
FEBRUARY 20: Sierra and the Dodgers are expected to complete their deal soon, Jon Heyman tweets. It will be in the $30MM-$31MM range.
JANUARY 12: The Dodgers have reportedly agreed on a six-year deal with Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra. Jon Heyman tweeted that a deal was in place after Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported this morning that agreement was close (Twitter link).
Per Passan, Sierra is expected to receive a guarantee of around $30MM. The Dodgers “pulled ahead” with an offer of between $30MM and $35MM over six years, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). The other teams that have at least made a “strong push” for Sierra are the Marlins and Cubs, he adds. (Miami’s pursuit was recently reported.)
Needless to say, Los Angeles has been remarkably active on the international market, and the addition of Sierra only continues that trend. The club already added Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda in the new year, signed and traded Hector Olivera last spring, landed a number of high-priced July 2 prospects (led by Cuban hurler Yadier Alvarez) over the summer, and then continued to pay 100% overages on large bonuses to Cuban prospects Yusniel Diaz and Omar Estevez.
Sierra, like Maeda and Olivera, is more or less MLB ready, though he’s probably more likely to see big league action out of a pen in the near term. The Dodgers’ rotation is already arguably somewhat overloaded, though, so Sierra could factor as a 2016 relief piece while looking to tap into his starting upside down the line.
The 24-year-old seems to come with a fairly intriguing ceiling. While he didn’t post good results in his most recent action in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, he is said to have a mid-90s fastball with a good slider. The ready comp is Reds’ righty Raisel Iglesias, with Ben Badler of Baseball America explaining (subscription required) that Sierra has more physical tools but less polished command than did Iglesias when he signed.
Sierra boosted his stock with a showcase in late October that drew a throng of scouts. And recent scouting reports have suggested that the righty has shown improvement in cleaning up both his delivery and command. As Badler noted today on Twitter, Sierra looks like a potential mid-rotation starter at his best.
It’s easy to see the rationale here from the Dodgers’ perspective. Even as the team increasingly eschews large commitments to veterans, it is putting its admirable financial position to work by doling out huge bonuses on the international market. While Sierra won’t require the team to pay a 100% tax, as he wasn’t subject to international signing limitations, the investment still represents a significant up-front cost that probably won’t yield a commensurate return on the field in the immediate future (if it ever does).
Of course, that’s precisely the gamble that all teams take when they dedicate resources to amateur talent. But Los Angeles is uniquely well-situated right now to utilize cash to accumulate young, controllable assets. With the strict limitations applicable to the draft, and the organization’s coming two-year ban on international signings of over $300K, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if we see yet more outlays over the next several months.