This June will be four years since the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a $42 million deal. Since then, the team has spent an exorbitant amount of money on Cuban talent only to see the production not match the dollars.
Scouring the international market for talent is one of the smarter ways to do things. In a lot of ways, it’s cheaper than actually going after the regular talent pool of free agents since some have draft picks attached to them, and others will cost even more.
All Puig has done since that signing is hit .294 over 331 games, while also slamming 46 home runs, driving in 149 runs, and producing an .858 OPS. He’s been worth the contract, and no one can deny that. His production and merchandise sales have probably doubled the Dodgers’ initial investment.
The issue is that the rest of the Cuban players signed since Puig have not done much. As Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes, the money spent has been ungodly:
Puig signed for $42 million, Guerrero for $28 million and Arruebarrena for $25 million. And the list goes on. Other Cubans signed to significant contracts include Hector Olivera $62.5 million, Yaisel Sierra $30 million, Yadier Alvarez $16 million, Yusniel Diaz $15.5 million, Pablo Fernandez $8 million and Omar Estevez $6 million. The Dodgers paid Olivera’s $28-million signing bonus and then shipped him to Atlanta last summer in a three-team trade that included 13 players.
If you add up all the money, and actually subtract the amount that the Braves will pick up in the Olivera deal, the Dodgers have spent $239 million on nine Cuban players. That’s $26.55 million per player.
So far, the only net positive has been Puig. But with the belief that players such as Sierra, Alvarez, Fernandez, and Diaz will at least be able to contribute in the future, it seems as if the Dodgers could actually come out doing just fine on this front.
Perhaps, in the future, the Dodgers will go after other types of international free agents. For instance, Byung-ho Park and Hyun Soo Kim both signed for pennies – just $31.85 million total, which includes posting fees – this offseason.
If the Cuban experiment starts to tail off, maybe an experiment Far East wouldn’t be a bad second option.
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