Most people wouldn’t identify the San Diego Padres as a rival of the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite their proximity in Southern California.  

The Dodgers are the big bullies of the West Coast, free-spending Goliaths who look up to no oneexcept maybe their true rivals to the north, the San Francisco Giants and their trio of trophies. 

But the Padres? Please.

Hang on, though. It’s possible LA is finally hearing San Diego’s footsteps. The Padres, after all, had a busy offseason, upgrading an already-strong rotation by signing James Shields and completely overhauling a moribund offense.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers responded by signing Cuban import Hector Olivera to a six-year, $62.5 million deal, per Jesse Sanchez of

No, it isn’t a gargantuan contract by Los Angeles’ lofty standards, but it’s a sizable chunk of change to toss at a 29-year-old with health concerns, including possible damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm, per Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Passan. (Olivera’s inner circle “vehemently denied” that report, per Baseball America‘s Ben Badler.)

Could the fact that the Friars were among Olivera’s rumored suitors, per CBS Sports‘ Jon Heyman, have forced the Dodgers’ hand?

They’d never admit it publicly, of course. And LA is the favorite in the National League West, with or without Olivera.

Still, it’s easy to imagine President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman looking down the freeway at the retooled Pads and wanting another weapon in his arsenal, just in case.

Olivera won’t make an immediate big-league impact. Passan guesses he’ll need at least a month in the minors to get ready, not to mention a lingering visa issue. 

Plus, the Dodgers are set at the moment in the infield, with Jimmy Rollins at short, Howie Kendrick at second and Juan Uribe at third. (Mark Uribe down as the most likely to be supplanted.)

When he does arrive at Dodger Stadium, Olivera will bring plenty of potential. In 133 games between 2011 and 2013, he hit 24 home runs to go along with 80 RBI for Santiago de Cuba of the Cuban National Series. In the 2011 campaign, arguably his best, he posted a gaudy .341/.462/.626 slash line.

More recently, Sanchez reports, Olivera “wowed scouts in open showcases and private workouts in the Dominican Republic last month, underscoring the notion that he can hit at least 15 to 20 home runs and drive in 75 runs from the middle of a lineup in what would be his rookie year.”

If that happens, Olivera would join countryman Yasiel Puig to form a legitimate Cuban power duo, elevating LA’s offense from great to next-level deadly.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. Not every Cuban slugger takes the league by storm, something the Dodgers understand firsthand.

In 2013, LA inked infielder Alex Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million pact and watched him spend most of last season in Triple-A.

But there is an immediate benefit to this deal: The Dodgers kept Olivera away from the rival Padres. That’s right, we said it. 

Led by new general manager A.J. Preller, San Diego had by far the biggest offseason of any NL West club and arguably the busiest winter in baseball. 

“They’ve been aggressive,” Friedman told USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale in December. “When A.J. got hired, I think the expectation was they would get aggressive. And they have.”

As if to put a punctuation mark on it, the Padres acquired Matt Kemp from the Dodgers (which, admittedly, pokes a hole in the bitter-rivalry theory). Surely the hair-rending possibility of Kemp mashing in a new town has at least crossed the minds of the Dodgers’ brain trust.

Time will tell if Olivera is the next big thing, another over-hyped international flame-out or, more likely, somewhere in the middle.

For now, one thing is abundantly clear: The Dodgers hear the Padres coming, and they’re picking up the pace.


All statistics courtesy of

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