(Photo Credit: baseballamerica.com)
According to reports from several different media outlets on Sunday afternoon, the Dodgers are very close to signing Cuban second baseman Jose Miguel Fernandez to a minor league deal.
The left-handed hitting infielder will turn 29 in April, and has spent his entire eight-year professional career playing for the Cocodrilos de Matanzas in the Cuban National Series, where he hit a combined .319/.403/.423 in 608 games played. One of his benchmark seasons came in 2012, when he slashed a stellar .355/.456/.492 with eight home runs and 17 doubles in 87 games played, but more impressively struck out a meager 17 times over 364 plate appearances.
He also appeared for the Cuban national squad in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, hitting a monstrous .524/.545/.667 in 21 at-bats.
Fernandez hasn’t played organized baseball since 2014, though, when he was limited to only 15 games after being suspended for attempting to defect from his homeland, leading some scouts to believe that an increase in size may be a concern for his mobility and prospective range at the keystone. However, just this past October and November, Fernandez primarily played third base with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .286/.369/.286 in 18 games, and eight walks in 65 plate appearances.
As stated by Ben Badler of Baseball America, Fernandez is an offensive-minded infielder with excellent plate discipline and bat control from the left side, having always been among the leaders in OBP in the Cuban National Series. Given his present hitting ability and on-base skills, he should be able to quickly step into the top of a major league lineup, though part of his immediate readiness depends on how sharp is after his long layoff from competitive baseball.
Although the Dodgers have already exceeded their allotted bonus pool to sign international players, Fernandez is exempt from such restrictions due to his extensive professional experience.
The Dodgers have been very aggressive in the Cuban market over the past several years, signing players like Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena, Hector Olivera, Yadier Alvarez, Yusniel Diaz, Yaisel Sierra, and more recently, Yordan Alvarez, to multi-year deals.
Fernandez probably isn’t considered an immediate solution to the Dodgers’ need for a primary second baseman, yet there’s no reason not to think that Fernandez could conceivably be part of the big league squad in the later portions of the season once he becomes acclimated to his new country and the nuances of the Dodgers’ system.
As position players for the Dodgers are scheduled to report to Camelback Ranch on February 20, there could be the possibility that Fernandez receives an non-roster invite to the big league side of camp.