By Eric Reynoso (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Hector Olivera, one of the biggest stars of Cuban baseball in the last decade, just signed a six-year contract for $62.5 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joins Cubans Yasiel Puig, Alexander Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarruena, also with the Dodgers.
Columnist Jesse Sanchez reported that Olivera, who turns 30 on April 5, and had a successful career for Santiago de Cuba and the Cuban national team, had sign the contract that includes $28 million in bonuses. The Dodgers have yet to make the official announcement.
But it is a fact. Olivera joins Puig and becomes the third highest paid Cuban player behind Rusney Castillo, whom the Red Sox awarded $72.5 million last year, and Jose Dariel Abreu (White Sox) who signed for $68 million in 2013.
Six teams sought Olivera
The Dodgers won the final race for the Cuban infielder, competing for him with the New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.
The situation of Olivera, who currently resides in the Dominican Republic, had sparked doubts among scouts and experts after rumors about his health, the conditions of his right arm and his age. Information on the alleged breach of a ligament in his throwing arm was later denied by the player, who was subjected to several medical examinations by the interested franchises.
With the Santiago de Cuba player deciding on the Dodgers, the team now faces a dilemma over the use of the four Cuban players on their roster. Along with Olivera, Shortstops Alexander Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarruena will be vying for a place on the big league team.
Olivera hopes to become another of his generation of Cuban players to succeed in MLB. Some of the other Team Cuba stars in the Majors are Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman, outfielder Yoenis Céspedes (Boston Red Sox) and shortstop Alexei Ramirez and first baseman Pito Abreu, both with the Chicago White Sox.
Hector is the son of one of the most powerful hitters in Cuban baseball history, Hector Olivera Gonzalez, now 71, who lives on the island. The young Olivera escaped the island last September on a boat to Haiti.
Contact and power
Olivera was considered one of the top Cuban baseball prospects since its appearance in the juvenile league, but his career was affected by injuries which kept him away from the baseball fields for long periods.
He is a hitter who combines contact with power hitting, and is an excellent base runner.
Olivera debuted in the top Cuban league in 2004, at age 18, after a brilliant career in the youth category. In eight seasons he compiled .322 batting average with 164 doubles, 81 homers and 414 RBIs.
He joined the teams that gave Cuba silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the World Cup 2009. He was also part of the Cuban team that participated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic II.
In the XVII Intercontinental Cup in 2010, held in Taipei China, Olivera was selected as the MVP of the tournament after hitting for a .593 average. That year he was chosen among the 10 Best Athletes in Cuba.