Hector Olivera exists, ladies and gentlemen. Hector Olivera is a real, living person. This was proved today when Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers signed the 29-year-old Cuban infielder to a six-year deal worth $62.5 million, including a $28 million signing bonus. (All pending a physical).
The Dodgers completely refurbished their middle infield this offseason, with the additions of Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, and already boasted two of the best corner infielders in the game in Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez. However, considering that Uribe and Kendrick both hit free agency this year, Olivera can fill in at any position for the next year or even compete for a starting job, or provide more depth in the outfield, which is already a heavily contested area. He’ll take the full-time job provided either Kendrick or Uribe leaves. Los Angeles is known to shop in the Cuban market (Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Pablo Fernandez), but this is the most expensive signing they’ve ever completed.
The most interesting part of the situation is what it took to get Olivera to the Major Leagues. It was first reported that he had torn his UCL, and there were rumors that he would shoot a video showing that he was fully able to throw and was at his full ability. He then decided to switch agents in the middle of the process, putting many conversations to a halt, and then finally switching agents. Throughout that entire process, he fielded offers worth $30 million to over $70 million over durations of four to seven years. He signed with the Dodgers after seeing interest from the Marlins, Braves, Giants, Yankees However, the deal does have a clause in it that protects the Dodgers if Olivera’s UCL is in fact problematic; Los Angeles would gain a seventh season of Olivera’s work for a mere $1 million if Olivera needs UCL reconstruction surgery.
There are still questions remaining – Olivera missed over one season in Cuba with a blood clot in his arm and played DH for the majority of the 2013 season, which left some scouts concerned. He also still needs to obtain a visa and will still need time in the minor leagues.
Last season, in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, he hit .316/.412/.474 with 7 home runs and 38 RBI over 273 plate appearances. Over his 10-year career in Cuba, he hit .323/.407/.505 with 96 home runs and 433 RBI.