Olivera, who turns 30 in April, was cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control yesterday according to Sanchez, so he can sign at any time now. Passan says it is believed Olivera has at least one offer worth more than $50M in hand, though the injury will change everything, assuming it exists. Olivera is considered the best available Cuba player on the market now that Yoan Moncada has signed.
Back in January we heard the Yankees had “strong interest” in Olivera, who is considered a better player than recently signed outfielders Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Assuming he’s healthy, of course. Here’s a quick scouting report from December, via Ben Badler:
At around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Olivera is a physical righthanded hitter with a loose, quick swing and a good hitting approach. He showed good power for a middle infielder, and given that several Cuban players have transformed their bodies and increased their power since leaving the island, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Olivera did the same. His size, athleticism and plus speed (at least at his peak) made him one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba.
The elbow is not the only physical concern with Olivera. He missed the entire 2012-13 season in Cuba with a blood disorder and hasn’t participated in many international tournaments since then. Scouts simply haven’t seen a whole of him the last few years. (He has been holding showcase events in recent weeks, which is when the UCL injury apparently occurred.) Here are Olivera’s stats from Cuba, via Baseball Reference:
|2003||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||132||32||38||6||3||1||11||5||0||7||20||.319||.367||.445||.813|
|2004||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||298||47||92||10||4||6||35||7||7||12||32||.326||.362||.454||.816|
|2005||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||77||296||42||66||8||4||3||35||5||6||35||24||.262||.351||.361||.712|
|2006||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||89||409||72||113||15||1||6||32||7||4||28||26||.315||.370||.412||.782|
|2007||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||84||394||91||114||25||3||10||45||21||1||55||28||.353||.467||.542||1.009|
|2008||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||84||398||84||115||23||5||16||71||8||3||55||24||.346||.444||.590||1.035|
|2009||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||89||411||76||111||34||4||14||54||0||1||56||29||.322||.415||.565||.980|
|2010||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||86||394||83||110||25||1||16||70||2||0||37||21||.318||.390||.535||.924|
|2011||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||60||264||48||73||10||0||17||42||0||1||44||22||.341||.462||.626||1.088|
|2013||Santiago de Cuba||CNS||73||273||44||72||11||2||7||38||0||0||38||25||.316||.412||.474||.885|
Two years ago the Phillies agreed to a six-year, $48M contract with Cuban righty Miguel Gonzalez before cutting it down to a three-year, $12M deal after concerns about his shoulder popped up, so Olivera would not be the first Cuban free agent to deal with an injury before signing. Position players typically need six months to rehab from Tommy John surgery, which is half the usual timetable for pitchers but still season-ending.
Olivera is both a second and third baseman, and while the Yankees have Chase Headley for the hot corner, they do need a long-term second base solution. The elbow injury could be an opportunity for New York to grab Olivera on the cheap, though there’s a lot of risk involved because Tommy John surgery isn’t a sure thing. If nothing else, there’s no reason for the Yankees to not kick the tires and see if a discount is in the cards.