Here we are the day before St. Patty’s Day, and the Braves’ brass is supposedly still considering whether to up the offer they presented to Cuban 2B Hector Olivera’s representatives last week. Greg Genske of The Legacy Agency (Hector’s new agent following his dismissal of Trainer/Agent Rudy Santin) was quoted as saying that he was deciding between multiple multi-year offers and expected to sign soon. The teams most linked as finalists in the bidding for his services are the Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Marlins, A’s, and Giants. As with all competition for MLB free-agents the rumors about who’s offering what are wide-ranging, and in many cases just not believable. So here’s a quick look inside what may be going on in Hart & Company meetings while the 2015 roster is being shaped at Dark Star.
Initial reports had Santin telling teams they expected Olivera to receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million and there was even a report that the Dodgers supposedly submitted a $77 million proposal, but that has been widely questioned and all but discounted. The next highest number floated was a $53 million offer from the Marlins that was supposedly taken off the table when they found out about the Dodgers’ offer. Apparently though, Miami’s offer was for 7 years (~$7.5 million AAV) which would be significantly lower than the yearly dollars they’d hoped to receive. The A’s were “monitoring” the situation at last check, and there haven’t been any recent mentions of the Giants actively trying to sign him.
So what do we make of all of this? Let’s look at what we “know”…
1.) The Braves are interested, and are apparently comfortable with something in the 4/$32 million to possibly 4/$40 million range, but the franchise is in the middle of retooling/rebuilding/insert your favorite term and just isn’t going to overpay for Olivera because a.) he isn’t the one missing piece that puts them over the top in their current situation, and b.) his best positions are places we may very well have answers for by the time the team is ready to contend. Would he make them a better team now? Sure. But if they move him to 3B next season to make room for Jose Peraza, and LF in 2017 to make room for Rio Ruiz, they don’t want to have a ton of money tied up in a 31 year old guy with health concerns that they’re trying to convert into an OF for the first time in his career.
2.) The Padres are interested, and he’d upgrade them at either 2B or 3B. They’re perfect in that they’re in win-now mode. The problem? Their payroll is already at an all-time franchise high and they look like they’ll have a tough time beating the Braves’ offer.
3.) The Dodgers are the Yankees of old – EVERY agent is going to try every possible way to leak that they’re interested because they can afford to pay whatever it takes to get every player they want. The problem? They’ve already got untradeable BAD contracts that HAVE to be on their 25 man roster in Ethier, Alex Guerrero, etc. and while Olivera might be an upgrade over Juan Uribe, he’s not a $70 million upgrade. If the Dodgers decide that Corey Seager’s not going to stick at SS, they’ll just slide him over to 3B and spend money on Ian Desmond (or someone else) to play SS. If the Dodgers wanted Olivera, he’d already be in camp.
4.) The Marlins DEFINITELY sound like they’re being used to drive the price up. Given the fact that Jeffrey Loria simply doesn’t spend money and the fact that they went and got Dee Gordon to play 2B, Martin Prado to play 3B, and they certainly don’t need him in the OF, does anyone really buy that he’s going to plunk down $53 million for a player that they don’t have anywhere to play??? And if they were serious with that offer, they wouldn’t have just run scared from a rumored Dodgers’ offer given the obvious Cuban ties in South Florida.
Somebody’s going to miss – and miss BIG on one of these guys. The Braves simply can’t afford to be that team – ESPECIALLY given the financial landscape they face.
I think he’s a fine gamble if we can get him for our money – that $8 million – $10 million AAV range. He’d certainly make the current team better if he’s healthy, and would give fans something to get excited about. The problem with getting in a bidding war – even if you’re talking about “only” creeping to around $50 million is the ultimate ROI. The addition of Olivera alone WILL NOT make this team a playoff contender during the first half of the deal, meaning he’ll be 31 by the time the Braves hope to compete. The organization has to decide whether that money could be better spent elsewhere long-term – perhaps on an extension for Alex Wood and/or Shelby Miller, or earmarked for an attempt at signing a Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes this winter as protection for Freddie Freeman moving forward. Structuring extensions exactly like Teheran’s (without the option year) for Wood and Miller wood cost $64,200,000 and lock all three of them up through 2020. If Hart & Company are believers in Peraza and Ruiz, it would make much more sense to spend those resources in that manner given the stance they’ve taken on pitching.
I’m not sure they shouldn’t do both – the hope is that Peraza and Ruiz pan out and Olivera ultimately winds up in LF when the new park opens. If that happened, you’d have spent much less money than chasing a LF masher and have resources to spend elsewhere (CF perhaps).
John Heyman’s reporting that the Braves are willing to slightly up their current offer but that they’re not going to come close to the $50 million range leading me to believe that Hart & Company has drawn a line in the sand and is in essence saying “they’ll go to that 4/$40 million area IF he signs NOW, and IF all his medicals check out with our doctors”. I personally discount the Marlins offer. If they’re only willing to go to $50-ish million spread over 7 years, I would tell him “thank you, and we hope you enjoy your time in Miami”. Accepting Miami’s offer (if there really even is one) would mark the ONLY contract he’ll ever get – he’d be 36 when the deal ended, and no one will give him significant money at that point. If they can get the Braves to push their offer into the 4/$36 million to 4/$40 million range and he turns out to be the type of player everyone hopes he is, he’d stand a good chance of making around $30 million more than that total if he stays healthy and lands two 4 year deals.