Full credit to BaseballAmerica’s Ben Badler for everything that follows here – including my own conclusions. The man has been on fire over the past 2-3 weeks, both with his investigation of the legalities involving the status of ex-Cuban free-agent wanna-bees, plus the workouts of premium examples such as Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera.
Badler is in the Dominican Republic today – watching both a showcase event of international players for the July 2nd signing period… and Hector Olivera.
There’s a problem, though: Olivera seems to be getting better by the day.
Can I Get a Witness?
Here’s a quote from Badler’s writeup of Olivera’s second open showcase event, held last week:
"Playing in a game at the Dominican air force base, the righthanded-hitting Olivera hit two home runs, including one to left-center field in his first at-bat. Later in the game, he pulled another home run to left field, then used the opposite field for a double to right-center. While he wasn’t facing major league pitching, it was a standout day for Olivera, who split time in the field between second and third base. He also showed above-average speed by running the 60-yard dash in 6.65 seconds, a touch better than the 6.7-6.8 times he posted at his previous showcase."
Today, Olivera is schmoozing with the Dodgers.. and many others:
The Price is Going Up
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Yes – that’s the team that should send chills down the spines of Braves’ fans: the deeply-pocketed Dodgers. Never mind the the Giants and Padres were already in the mix – and probably multiple other clubs.
But here’s the real problem: Yoan Moncada is going to be signed first. The very logistics of his situation is going to steer several teams toward Olivera as a possible “consolation prize” since Moncada will be utterly unaffordable to them.
In case you weren’t aware, while Yoan Moncada – still a teenager – may end up being the best baseball player on the planet, he will be subject to MLB’s international signing guidelines – and penalties.
The problem teams will face in signing Moncada actually isn’t the contract he’ll end up with, for that will be spread out over however many years are involved. The problem will be that the penalty has to be paid almost immediately – a 100% penalty on the full value of the base contract, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $40 million or more.
That kind of liquid cash is only available from a few select teams: teams like the Dodgers and Yankees.
There’s rumblings that San Diego might try a bake sale or something to scrape together the funds to bid on him, but when push comes to shove, Moncada will probably end up in either New York or LA.
Even so, even these teams will not be terribly anxious to outbid the other by too much. For example, while a $100 million deal for 12 years might sound plausible, it makes the penalty payment $100 million as well.
BACK TO OLIVERA
Hector Olivera, by contrast, is an old codger (which has been my personal concern with the Braves’ interest in him… though I’m frankly starting to warm a bit to the idea, given what I’m now hearing). He is not subject to those International spending limits.
Original estimates had Olivera’s price in the $10 million to $15 million range. But given his recent workouts – particularly the increased performance at those workouts – I think that price could ultimately double. This Yankees site thinks it might even go crazy-high.
Also, don’t think for a second, either, that the Dodgers want to sign only one of these premium free agents. They could very well be after both of them. That only means higher dollars.
I do think that the Braves have a plan here. I believe they want Olivera. Frankly, even a high cost might not be enough to scare them away. Traditionally, of course, the Braves have not reached high for such free agents. But Olivera may be their last, best shot at getting a premium-level Cuban bat… and it’s one that costs no prospects or penalties.
If that were to happen, then here’s what would probably transpire:
- Olivera would be told that he’s playing third base. Between Jace Peterson and Jose Peraza, that’s the only logical option.
- The Braves would immediately start looking for a buyer for Chris Johnson‘s contract… with Atlanta throwing up to half of his money onto the table to make sure it gets done.
- The bigger question, in my mind, is what happens with Rio Ruiz? In him we have a 20-year-old Top 100 3B prospect about to enter AA ball. Clearly, he would be blocked by Olivera for 2-3 years.
It is because of Ruiz that I would not lose sleep if the Braves fail to land Olivera: he will be majors-ready by 2017, and could anchor the hot corner in Atlanta for 6-10 seasons. But Olivera would block Ruiz for 2-3 seasons, and thus a trade would be logical.
I would be uncomfortable losing Ruiz in exchange for 4-5 seasons of a 30+ player – even of the apparent caliber of Olivera. Such a trade would have to bring back a ‘thumper’ outfield bat… but I can’t say even who might be available, or who he’s replace. It just complicates the whole scenario, never mind jettisoning a really promising youngster. So with all that said, I’m still personally against Atlanta’s pursuit of Olivera.
Olivera has not yet been cleared to sign with a major league club. However, that clearance is probably imminent. Given that, I would expect that he would start taking bids within the next 2 weeks and sign shortly thereafter – perhaps as early as the first or second week of March.
Right now, the interest in Olivera seems to be focused on Atlanta, plus a bushel of teams from the Western US (practically all of them). It could simply come down to personal preference of geography – East or West. That might be an easier call for someone native to the US, but for a Cuban-born player it also might not matter one ilk. Nonetheless, that’s the way things seem to be aligned at the moment.
The last word today comes again from Ben Badler, who wrote this last week: