There’s been a noticeable rise in Cuban players making their way to the Majors over the past few seasons, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have been at the center of the action.
Signed to a seven-year, $42 million contract in June 2012, Yasiel Puig made his debut with the Dodgers one year later and took the world by storm. Puig helped spark the Dodgers to a historic summer run and 2013 National League West division title.
Los Angeles has since signed the likes of Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alex Guerrero, both of whom have also spent time in the Majors.
Arruebarrena was inked to a five-year, $25 million contract that included a $7.5 million signing bonus in Feburary 2014.
The Dodgers suspended Arruebarrena for the remainder of the 2015 season last May. He appealed the decision and it was eventually reduced to 30 games.
Guerrero signed a four-year, $28 million deal in October 2013 and received a $10 million signing bonus. His contract includes a clause that prevents the Dodgers from optioning Guerrero to the Minors without his consent.
Additionally, the 29 year old can opt out of his deal after any season in which he is traded. Neither Arruebarrena or Guerrero has made much of an impact, but it’s done little to discourage the Dodgers’ spending on Cuban free agents.
According to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, Dodgers senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes believes the risk is justified:
“It’s unique because still on the scale of other money – major-league free agency — it’s still a little bit less,” Dodgers senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes said. “You have a long time. A guy like Sierra we have six years of control to work with like with some of the teenagers we’re bringing over. It’s tough to ignore some of the good outcomes around the game whether it’s Puig or (Jose) Abreu or (Yoenis) Cespedes or (Aroldis) Chapman. … But I think like any part of the talent universe there’s going to be mixed results.”
The Dodgers signed 24-year-old Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra to a six-year, $30 million contract last week. He received a $6 million signing bonus as part of the deal and escalating annual salaries.
Some NL West officials believe the Dodgers overspent for a pitcher who battles control issues. Los Angeles intends to develop Sierra as a reliever and are confident his command is related to fixable mechanical issues.
In addition to Sierra, other Cuban natives Los Angeles has added include, right-hander Yadier Alvarez, outfielder Yusnel Diaz, infielder Omar Estevez and righty Pablo Millan Fernandez.
Hector Olivera, signed by the Dodgers to a six-year, $62.5 million in May 2015 and once lauded as the club’s future third baseman, was traded to the Atlanta Braves last season as part of the complex three-team, 13-player trade that also included the Miami Marlins.
Olivera received a $28 million signing bonus, all of which was paid by the Dodgers.