The best remaining free agent on the international market went to the National League’s richest team.
Hector Olivera signed a six-year, $62.5 million contract with the Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon, five months after defecting from his native Cuba and three weeks after being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. Olivera was also courted by the Padres, Braves, Athletics, and Giants, but no organization was willing to put up as much money as the Dodgers, who have dished out eight-figure contracts to three other Cubans: Yasiel Puig ($42 million), Alex Guerrero ($28 million), and Erisbel Arruebarrena ($25 million). When your local television contract pays you over $300 million annually, you can take these gambles on relative unknowns.
Olivera is even more of a mystery than the Cuban defectors that have preceded him. He sat out the entire 2012 season in Serie Nacional due to an apparent blood clot and when he returned in 2013 his club, Santiago de Cuba, stuck him at DH. This was after he spent the first nine years of his career at second base. Olivera did not play baseball anywhere in 2014 and pre-signing murmurings that he has a small UCL tear in his throwing elbow have proven to be accurate. The 29-year-old is expecting to play through the tear rather than undergo Tommy John surgery, but he doesn’t have a clear path to regular playing time at Chavez Ravine for the 2015 season.
Olivera is presumably going to spend all of April in the minors so that he can get his timing right at the plate and try out a few different positions in the field. His build (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) gives off a third base vibe, and Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe probably has the weakest hold on his starting job of the team’s current infielders. It’s worth noting that Uribe, Jimmy Rollins, and Howie Kendrick are all due to become free agents after this season.
We can’t really build a road map for Olivera’s 2015 fantasy output, but his offensive numbers from those 10 years in Serie Nacional sure are intriguing. In 2011, he hit .341/.462/.626 with 17 home runs in 60 games.
Grab him in dynasty. Grab him in standard redraft leagues. The $62.5 million contract (which includes a massive $28 million signing bonus) suggests the Dodgers think Olivera can be a high-impact player out of the gate.
If he does eventually need Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers get a seventh-year option at just $1 million.
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Rest Prescribed For Ryu
Not everybody was champagne-popping in Dodgers camp Tuesday. As announced on the club’s official Twitter account, starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu has been shut down for the next two weeks due to lingering soreness in his left shoulder and will open the regular season on the disabled list. This shoulder has been causing Ryu problems for over a year and while MRI results have continued to come back negative, his outlook for 2015 just got cloudy.
Ryu doesn’t get as much attention as rotation mates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but fantasy baseball enthusiasts know how valuable he’s been since arriving from South Korea. The 27-year-old left-hander boasts a 3.17 ERA, 1.198 WHIP, and 293 strikeouts in 344 major league innings.
Joe Wieland appeas to be the leading candidate to serve as Ryu’s fill-in and he looks like a potential fantasy sleeper. Acquired from the Padres in December as part of the Matt Kemp trade, Wieland owns a 3.27 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 in 476 2/3 career minor league frames. The 25-year-old right-hander has allowed just one earned run and fanned nine batters in nine Cactus League innings this spring.
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Bryant Continues Arizona Assault
Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant stayed hot Tuesday against the Athletics, slugging his Cactus League-leading ninth home run -- a towering solo shot off Oakland starter Drew Pomeranz. Bryant now has a .464 batting average, 2.031 OPS, and 15 RBI in 11 spring training games. But you know how this write-up ends if you’ve been paying attention to Bryant’s situation.
The 23-year-old is going to be sent to Triple-A Iowa when camp breaks because the Cubs can get an extra year of contractual control on the future superstar if they wait two weeks to add him to their active roster. It’s a no-brainer for Chicago’s front office under the current system, and it won’t require all that much patience.
Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, batted .325/.438/.661 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI in 138 games last season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He’ll have immediate fantasy value when he arrives on the north side of Chicago in mid-April.
Bon Voyage To Bell
Veteran reliever Heath Bell was released by the Nationals on Monday after allowing five runs -- four earned -- in six-plus Grapefruit League innings. And on Tuesday, he told MLB.com’s Corey Brock that he is retiring from baseball at age 37 ...
“My kids wanted me home,” said Bell. “What’s more important: my kids or the big leagues? I’ve already accomplished more than I ever dreamed of. Now it’s time to help them accomplish their dreams.”
Bell became the butt of jokes near the end of his 11-year major league career, but let’s remember how great he was for a lengthy stretch. In a total of 374 innings with the Padres between 2007-2011, the right-hander registered a 2.53 ERA, 9.4 K/9, and 134 saves. He made over $37 million as a professional thrower of baseballs.