The Dodgers and infielder Hector Olivera have agreed to a six-year contract worth $62.5 million, including a $28 million signing bonus, a source confirmed Tuesday. The contract has not been announced because it is pending a physical.
Olivera, who turns 30 on April 5, was the most highly sought-after free agent from Cuba remaining on the market. In terms of both years and dollars, Olivera’s contract represents the most significant commitment to any free agent the Dodgers have made since president Andrew Friedman took over last October.
Olivera profiles as a second baseman or third baseman, which is a potential position of need for the Dodgers after this season. Howie Kendrick, 31, and Juan Uribe, 36, are both eligible to become free agents after 2015, as is shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
The Dodgers believe they have their shortstop of the future in 20-year-old Corey Seager, who slashed .286/.500/.429 in 21 Cactus League plate appearances. Olivera solidifies one of the other two positions; Alex Guerrero, who’s under contract through 2017, could fill the other. The Dodgers might now use the 2015 season to sort all the roles out.
Olivera’s signing presents other, more pressing, concerns.
Once his contract becomes official, the Dodgers will need to make room on their 40-man roster for Olivera. He’s a legal resident of Haiti, and obtaining his U.S. work visa could take time. He also must pass his physical, which has raised varying degrees of concern among interested teams. Yahoo! reported on March 5 that “serious concern exists that Olivera has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament.” An executive whose team was pursuing Olivera at the time told me that he didn’t share this concern.
If Olivera needs Tommy John surgery, he would likely miss all of the 2015 season and wouldn’t cost the Dodgers a spot on their active roster.
If Olivera is deemed healthy, he could begin the season in the minor leagues. In that case, the Dodgers would be able to give Olivera one of the 40-man roster spots that will become available when pitchers Chris Withrow and Brandon Beachy, who are recovering from Tommy John surgery, are placed on the 60-day disabled list.
But the Dodgers already had a logjam among Guerrero, Darwin Barney and Justin Turner all vying for infield playing time behind starters Uribe, Kendrick and Rollins.