When the Guggenheim ownership group purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt, an immediate commitment was made to not only improving the team but the overall standing and perception of the once-proud franchise.
That included restoring their farm system, both by way of the MLB Draft and international market, where the Dodgers were pioneers. Much of the focus went into Cuban prospects, particularly after the previous regime’s signing of Yasiel Puig in 2012.
However, their success in others from the island has been fleeting. And now, some of the signings appear to have landed the Dodgers in some trouble with the United States Department of Justice.
On the heels of documents being provided to the FBI that prompted a DOJ investigation into the possibility of corruption by teams in signing international prospects, the Dodgers’ involvement is directly connected to Hector Olivera and Pablo Fernandez, according to L. Jon Wertheim and Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated:
SI has also learned that while the possible smuggling of multiple Cuban players is under investigation, grand jury testimony has begun pertaining to the questionable practices in recruiting Hector Olivera.
Another former Cuban player whose recruitment is referenced multiple times: Pablo Fernandez, a pitcher who renounced his citizenship in 2014 and whom the Dodgers ultimately signed to a reported $8 million bonus in ’15.
The Dodgers signed Olivera to an astounding six-year, $62.5 million contract in 2015. Touted as a power bat, he reached Triple-A Oklahoma City but never took the field in the Majors for the Dodgers.
Olivera was included in a three-team trade that involved the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. Olivera played in 30 games over parts of two seasons with Atlanta, then was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Matt Kemp.
Former Braves general manager Jon Coppolella would later admit acquiring Olivera from the Dodgers in July 2015 was a deal he regretted. Of course, Coppolella eventually encountered a larger issue as he received a lifetime ban from MLB due to transgressions in the international market.
The Dodgers’ signing ($8 million bonus) of Fernandez was even more fleeting. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2016 and was released by the organization this past March.