Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Rebuilding Looks Less Like Rebuilding: The Hector Olivera Saga

One thing's seems for certain. The Atlanta Braves front office loves to confuse us.

While they have refused to call this offseason the first steps of a rebuilding process, we know better. Call it a reboot or a remodel or whatever you want, but the Atlanta Braves are clearly rebuilding toward the future. More specifically, toward 2017, the year when the new stadium in Cobb County opens. Almost everything they have done this offseason has been with that in mind.

Almost everything. Giving Nick Markakis $44M over four years...not really a rebuild move. Giving Jason Grilli a two-year contract? Probably not a thing rebuilding teams do. However, the rest is signs of a classic rebuild. Trade your highly desirable pieces for good prospect hauls and add veterans to plug in until the youngins' are ready. This is how teams rebuild and the Braves are following the blueprint. But are they willing to deviate from the plan to sign Hector Olivera?

The Braves aren't exactly novices at signing Cuban defectors. Most recently, they committed to Dian Toscano, an outfielder who profiles as a possible leadoff option at some point. But the Braves weren't really in on the big ones like recently signed Yoan Moncada or the guy who is despised by Braves fans, Yasiel Puig. Like them, Olivera is a pretty intriguing player. He profiled as a middle infielder with serious power and great bat control from the right side. While Olivera could play third, many liked him better as a second baseman. Had he left Cuba when he was 25, he'd probably been even more sought after. Now, teams are still interested, but not nearly as fascinated with the talent after a blood clot forced him to DH his final season in Cuba along with knocking him out for the 2012-13 year. Since defecting, Atlanta has kept a close eye on Olivera and held a private workout for him last month.

Still, it's surprising to hear the Braves talked about as one of the favorites to sign Olivera, whose camp has reportedly told teams that they expect a contract in the $70 million range. That doesn't seem like the Braves I know, nor the Braves that are rebuilding, because teams like the Braves probably shouldn't be investing such a chunk of change into a guy who has never played one game in the majors. But what do I know since, according to Robert Murray, the Braves are interested enough to offer $50M. It's hard to accept that as a reality and the Braves probably will be outbid, but either John Hart has started to buy the rhetoric he hopes we will accept about competing in 2015 or the Braves simply have a unique idea of what rebuilding really is.

I just don't get it. But I didn't get the Jon Lester talk in the offseason which says to me if there is any interest on Atlanta's end, it's mostly due diligence. Maybe Hart is saying, "well, we'd feel really dumb if he signed for $30M" so the Braves get involved and see if they can swoop in with a competitive offer that won't blow anyone's socks off. After all, you can answer the questions about what signing Olivera would do to Jose Peraza or Chris Johnson later.

Whether Olivera will be a bust or not or whether he needs Tommy John or not, the Braves just don't FEEL like the right fit for him, nor does it feel like he's the right fit for the Braves. But I guess Markakis doesn't feel like the right fit, either...

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