After months of anticipation, the Dodgers have finalized their agreement with Cuban infielder Hector Olivera. The two sides first shook hands on a six-year, $62.5MM deal back in March but a few roadblocks – including visa issues – dragged the process out a bit. Today, the i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, and Olivera is at long last an official member of the Dodgers.
There are still lingering questions, however, not the least of which is where Olivera will fit into the Dodgers’ big league picture with plenty of talent already at second base, third base, and the corner outfield positions. Minutes ago on a conference call, I asked Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman if Olivera’s arrival could open things up for a potential trade down the line.
“I think having as many good players as possible helps you not only in constructing your own roster, but it allows you the opportunity to talk with more teams. If we’re ever complaining about having too much depth then that’s a good problem to have, but we’re certainly not there yet. Adding someone that has a chance to impact the game is obviously always a good thing,” Friedman said.
Friedman clearly wasn’t looking to discuss specific trade possibilities, but one has to imagine that the Dodgers could parlay their offensive depth into pitching, particularly in the wake of rumblings that pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu could require season-ending shoulder surgery. There’s no word yet on whether Ryu will have to go under the knife, but Friedman says that he has been bracing for the worst and planning as though he will not have Ryu the rest of the way. The Dodgers expect to know more about the left-hander’s condition on Wednesday, and that information will shape their approach this summer.
The immediate plan for Olivera will be to work him up through the minor league system. The infielder’s first stop will be in Arizona (for “a few days”), followed by a bump up to Oklahoma City. Given Olivera’s age and the size of his deal, there has been a lot of talk about him making an immediate impact at the major league level. Still, Friedman wasn’t willing to put a timetable on when the Cuban standout might join the varsity squad.
When Olivera is ready for primetime, Friedman says that the organization is open to different positions for him. While Olivera worked out at the Dodgers academy, Friedman received reports indicating that he was taking well to both second and third base. Olivera is also said to have the range to play in the outfield, so that could theoretically be an option for L.A.
Of course, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd outlined a bit earlier this afternoon, that versatility doesn’t exactly make his path to the Majors any clearer. The Dodgers have Juan Uribe, Alex Guerrero, Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner all, like Olivera, capable of playing multiple infield positions. And, starting second baseman Howie Kendrick doesn’t figure to be displaced anytime soon (he’s even been mentioned as an extension candidate). In the outfield, Andre Ethier has looked rejuvenated this season, with Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, Carl Crawford, Guerrero and Hernandez all serving as options as well (though Puig and Crawford are currently injured). Versatile as he may be, Olivera joins a crowded mix of players in an intriguing logjam that figures to be addressed at some point down the line.
In addition to Olivera, the Dodgers also completed the signing of Cuban righty Pablo Millan Fernandez to a minor league contract. Fernandez, who, according to Friedman, has an Orlando Hernandez-type windup that many Cuban pitchers are fond of, will be stretched out to be a starter.