According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the San Diego Padres have emerged from a field that included the Athletics, Braves, and Dodgers as the favorites to sign Cuban infielder Hector Olivera. Earlier this offseason, the Padres were in on the bidding for Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Moncada, but ultimately came up short in the bidding. Their offer to Olivera, a reported $50 million, puts them in the driver’s seat. The Braves and Athletics appear to be out of the running, with the Dodgers continuing to mull over their offer.
Olivera’s value took a bit of a hit earlier this week, after reports questioning the health of his throwing arm emerged. Olivera has a reported blood clot in his non-throwing left arm. This blood disorder kept Olivera on the sideline during the entire 2012-2013 Cuban season. There are also concerns over the health of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm. Despite the massive concerns regarding his health, the Padres appear ready to make Olivera the capstone piece to their offseason spending spree.
Despite a busy offseason, in which the Padres brought in Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, and James Shields, the infield was the one area not addressed by new general manager A.J. Preller. If signed, Olivera would be expected to contend immediately for either the second or third base job. At 29, he is as ready for the Major Leagues as he ever will be. The Padres enter the season expected to start Will Middlebrooks at third and Jedd Gyorko at second, a pair that combined to hit .203 a year ago with 12 home runs. Bringing in Olivera could be the cherry on top for Preller who has already ascended to rock star status in San Diego.
The Padres have gone eight seasons without reaching the playoffs. It appears Preller has been given the green light to do whatever it takes to bring October baseball back to San Diego. Olivera could be an immediate impact bat, in the line of recent Cuban imports Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. His health is the only concern, but that has not cooled the desire for his services. The Padres have struck out on their first two Cuban flirtations this offseason, do not expect them to settle for second place this time.
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