The Padres missed out on Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, who ended up signing with Arizona. Many major league teams are interested in the supremely-talented Cuban shortstop, Yoan Moncada. But the Padres are reportedly one of the top teams in the mix for a third Cuban star, second baseman Hector Olivera.
Ben Badler of Baseball America lists the Padres among the three teams currently making the most noise in the Olivera sweepstakes, going head-to-head with the Yankees and A’s in pursuit of the 6’2”, 220-pound star of the Cuban Serie Nacional and multiple international tournaments.
Unlike Tomas and Moncada, Olivera is major-league ready. At 29-years old, he is a veteran of six seasons in Cuba, and put up an impressive slash line of .341/.468/.626 in 2012. Baseball America’s most recent rankings had Olivera listed as the sixth-best player in Cuba. Although Tomas defected before BA’s rankings came out, Olivera would have been ranked ahead of Tomas, according to Badler, who adds that Olivera is “definitely going to the major leagues after he signs.”
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Olivera is not without his issues. Although he defected from the island nation last summer, his residency paperwork is yet to be completed, rendering him ineligible to sign with a major league team until those issues have been sorted out. He has also suffered from thrombosis in his left biceps, a blood disorder that prevented him from playing for more than a year before he returned to play last year.
The righthanded hitter returned after his injury year, and still managed to slash .316/.412/.474 in his final season in Cuba, although he only played about a third of the 90-game season at second base, serving as DH the rest of the time.
Olivera is used to playing on the big stage, having played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2010 FISU World University Championships. He was also a starter on the Cuban Olympic baseball team that won the Silver Medal at the 2008 games in Beijing, and in fact led off the ninth inning of the gold medal game with a single before being stranded at third to end the 3-2 game.
If the Padres sign Olivera, will he replace incumbent Jedd Gyorko at second base?
That’s an excellent question. Let’s hope we have the chance to find out the answer.