The Dodgers, who have signed five Cuban players, have been among the major league’s most aggressive teams in pursuing talent fromthe Caribbean island. The Angels have signed one such player. A look at each of the players under the control of local teams:
Yasiel Puig, 24, outfield: In June 2012, Puig signed a seven-year, $42-million contract with the Dodgers. Puig escaped to Mexico from Cuba earlier that year with the aid of smugglers controlled by a Mexican drug cartel, according to court documents. He made his major league debut in 2013 and his electrifying style of play instantly made him one of the sport’s most popular players. Last year, Puig was selected to his first All-Star team. He is something of a polarizing figure, as some baseball purists are bothered by his on-field exuberance and his penchant for making mistakes.
Alex Guerrero, 28, third base-left field:
Guerrero signed a four-year, $28-million contract with the Dodgers in October 2013. He said he became determined to defect fromhis homeland earlier that year when hewas excluded from Cuba’s World Baseball Classic roster. He escaped by boat to Haiti. Guerrero spent most of last season in the minor leagues, where a piece of his ear was bitten off by a teammate in a dugout fight. He has made significant offensive contributions to the Dodgers this season, but his defensive shortcomings have prevented him from securing an everyday position.
Erisbel Arruebarrena, 25, shortstop:
A childhood friend of Puig, Arruebarrena defected from Cuba in the fall of 2013 after a previous attempt failed. He established residency in Haiti, after which he signed a five-year, $25-million contract with the Dodgers. A defensive wizard, Arruebarrena played in 22 major leagues games for the Dodgers last season but batted only .195 andwas removed fromthe team’s 40man roster over the off-season. At the end of spring training this year, the Dodgers instructed him to remain in their extended campin Arizona. That didn’t sitwell with the former Cuban national team player, who did not showup for workouts. Last month, the Dodgers suspended him for the remainder of the season but itwas recently cut to 30 days and he is back in Arizona.
Pablo Millan Fernandez, 25, pitcher:
Fernandez agreed to a minor league contract in March that included an $8-million bonus. Fernandez established residency in Haiti after his defection, but other details of his escape from Cuba are unknown. Primary a reliever in Cuba, he will try to become a starting pitcher in the United States. He has a slight build— the Dodgers list him at 6 feet 1 and185 pounds— and has an unorthodox delivery similar to Orlando Hernandez’s. The Dodgers believe he could develop into a pitcher similar to Yusmeiro Petit of the San Francisco Giants.
Hector Olivera, 30, infielder: Olivera is believed to be the most polished player the Dodgers have signed out of Cuba. Olivera, who established residency in Haiti after his defection last fall, finalized a contract last month that is guaranteed for $62.5 million over six years. The Dodgers are expecting Olivera to reach the major leagues this season. Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, said Olivera is capable of hitting in the middle of a major league lineup. Olivera played only six games at double A, after which hewas promoted to triple A. Hewas primarily a second baseman in Cuba, but can also play first base and third base.