The Los Angeles Dodgers have a problem, but it is a great one to have. As it turns out, they seem to be too good. Their newest Cuban import has been tearing the cover off the ball.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) June 20, 2015
Olivera, of course, was the latest Dodgers international signee when he inked a $62.5 million/ six-year deal in May. It was no easy road to get a deal, however. Olivera is now 30-years old. He had missed the entire 2012-2013 season in the Serie Nacional in Cuba and hadn’t played professionally in some time after defecting.
This offseason he was surrounded by Tommy John surgery rumors, that Olivera had possibly torn his ulnar collateral ligament. His camp vehemently denied the stories, and after quite a few teams were in on the chase, the Los Angeles Dodgers came out the victors.
Now, Olivera is tearing up Minor League baseball. He will very likely be the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week after a four-hit performance Friday night, including his first Triple-A home run.
Olivera got off to a slow start since he signed so late. He jumped right to Double-A after a brief stint in extended spring training and proved that he was ready to move on rather quickly. He slashed .318/.400/.455 for the Tulsa Drillers and quickly advanced to the Oklahoma City Dodgers at Triple-A. He has already recorded two four-hit games in his first six games in the PCL, hitting .444 picking up his first home run and RBI yesterday.
The question is, what do the Dodgers do about it? Olivera is not one of the Dodgers top prospects because he is already 30-years old. He translates to a Major League third baseman or possibly a second baseman as well. The Dodgers have Justin Turner at third base who has proved he can do nothing but hit well since joining the Dodgers last year. Howie Kendrick is nothing flashy, but he is as steady as they come at second base. Even the middle infield, utility role is somewhat blocked as Corey Seager continues to rake in Triple-A making his promotion seemingly imminent. There appears to be no room for Olivera in the crowded Dodgers lineup, right?
Wrong. The Dodgers need to swallow their pride and relegate Jimmy Rollins to the bench, or even worse, designate him. They traded away top prospects to get him, but he is only due $11-million this season, an amount of change that does not hurt the Dodgers wallet at all.
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Rollins, now 36, isn’t even half the player he has been. He is slashing an abysmal .197/.258/.326 with 7 home runs and 18 RBI. Even worse, he has already committed six errors in his first 63 games. To put that in perspective, Rollins committed seven errors in 131 games in 2014 and his career high of 14 — which he did 3 times in seasons he played more than 150 games — is well in reach if he were to keep up the pace. Jimmy Rollins was a warrior and one of the best shortstops in baseball for a long time, but those days have passed.
Now, Olivera can’t play shortstop… but Justin Turner can. This keeps Turner’s hot bat in the lineup, keeps the ever-consistent Kendrick at his natural position at second, and gets Olivera — who is Major League ready at 30-years of age — to The Show. It also allows Seager to continue his progress at Triple-A and not make the Dodgers feel rushed to get him up in the lineup.
Olivera is no normal prospect. He has seen his best days as a youngster come and go, and his clock is ticking. He seems to already have a grasp on Minor League ball, maybe it’s time to bring him to the bigs.