LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cuban infielder Hector Olivera arrived at the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Arizona after finalizing a $62.5 million, six-year contract Tuesday, and predicted he could be playing in the major leagues within a month.
The deal was reached in late March, but Olivera had to first secure a visa. He arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday and successfully completed a physical, with the Dodgers downplaying reports of a possible ligament tear in his right elbow.
“He came through the medical exam really well,” Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, said on a conference call. “We did a very thorough medical review.”
Olivera spent the last month at the Dodgers’ academy in the Dominican Republic, where he was closely observed by team officials while playing second and third base.
“I don’t know where that rumor came from,” Olivera said through a translator on a conference call. “There was a little bit of an inflammation in my arm. It was just fatigue in the muscle, but I don’t think there was any serious problem.”
Friedman said market conditions dictated the Dodgers shell out so much to land Olivera, who said he had five teams interested in him, including Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco.
Olivera was swayed by the Dodgers in part because fellow Cubans Yasiel Puig and Alex Guerrero are on the team.
“I’m going to be the new kid on the block and I want to have a lot of support from the people, especially my teammates,” he said. “I’m going to work hard and I’m going to play every day, that’s what I hope.”
Friedman said Olivera will head to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, to work out. After playing a few games in a spring-training-like setting, the 30-year-old Cuban will head to Triple-A Oklahoma City, accompanied by someone from the Dodgers to help him adjust to life in America.
Friedman said it’s premature to speculate on when Olivera might join the big-league club.
“It’s hard to miss spring training and come out and hit the ground running,” he said. “Everyone is different. Putting him into game action will be very telling. We’ll go off those cues.”
Manager Don Mattingly said, “I know he still has to get into game shape. Once we get closer, we’ll talk about it.”
But Olivera predicted he could join the Dodgers in three to four weeks.
“I should be ready by then to play at the big-league level,” he said. “I just need the final touch and that’s what I’m going to do here in Arizona.”
Olivera gets a $28 million signing bonus, of which $12 million is payable within five days of approval by the commissioner’s office, $7.5 million by Aug. 1 and $8.5 million by Dec. 31.
Olivera receives salaries of $2 million this year, $4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018, $7.5 million in 2019 and $8.5 million in 2020.
Los Angeles has a $1 million conditional option for 2021 that can be exercised if Olivera has Tommy John surgery on his right elbow or has right elbow surgery attributable to an ulnar collateral ligament injury that causes him to be on the disabled list for more than 100 days during any one-year span. Olivera can become a free agent at the end of the agreement.
Olivera’s deal will cause a $4,173,333 increase in this year’s luxury tax for the Dodgers, who pay at a 40 percent rate at the payroll amount over $189 million. His agreement raises the Dodgers’ luxury tax payroll to about $292 million, which projects to a tax of roughly $41 million.
Los Angeles cleared a spot on its 40-man roster by designating left-hander Eury De La Rosa for assignment.
In addition, the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with Cuban right-hander Pablo Fernandez, who will head to Arizona and be stretched out as a starter.
“He’s got a five-pitch mix and has shown really good command throughout his career,” said Friedman, who was unsure if Fernandez would join the big-league club this season.
Los Angeles said Olivera had a .323 career average in Cuba with 96 homers and 433 RBIs with Santiago from 2003-14, playing mostly first base and second, his preferred position.
The Dodgers said Fernandez was 32-30 with 40 saves in 21 starts and 156 relief appearances with Holguin (2007-14) and Matanzas (2012-13) and he was MVP of Cuba’s All-Star Game in 2011 and ‘12.
In other pitching news, the Dodgers are considering surgery for injured starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has yet to pitch this season.
The No. 3 starter has been out because of shoulder inflammation since March. The South Korean left-hander hasn’t responded to rest.
Ryu was 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA last year. He signed a $36 million, six-year deal in December 2012.