Cuban infielder Hector Olivera was officially declared a free agent by MLB yesterday and his representatives are aiming high in contract talks.
Executives from two teams involved in the bidding told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that Olivera’s representatives expect to land a deal north of $70 million. If that’s the case, teams apparently aren’t scared off by the recent report that Olivera could have a damaged ulnar collateral ligament. Olivera’s camp has refuted the report and told Ben Badler of Baseball America that he has passed four physicals.
As opposed to Yoan Moncada, Olivera is not a young player. He’ll be 30 in April, so if healthy, he’s someone who could contribute in the majors right away. He’s also not subject to international draft pools. Rusney Castillo’s $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox is the current record for an international free agent, but it seems like Olivera’s representatives believe that he has a chance to match or surpass it. The Dodgers and Yankees are among the teams who have shown interest in him.
Injury concerns aside, Olivera posted an impressive .323/.407/.505 batting line over 10 seasons with Asvispas de Santiago in Serie Nacional. He could be an option to play second base or third base in MLB.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.