John Hart was ecstatic to acquire Hector Olivera. The Braves GM attempted to pursue Olivera in free agency earlier this season when he was coming out of Cuba. However, the Dodgers were able to outbid Atlanta for Olivera’s services. That did not stop Hart, who traded loads of talent for the third baseman, with the Dodgers picking up the tab on his $28.5 million price tag. When the Braves officially completed the trade with the Dodgers, Hart had these words to say about Olivera: “As we start to retool this offense, this is the first building block.” The organization believes Olivera has the ability to be one of the key bats in the middle of the Braves’ lineup when the team begins to compete for division titles again.
After recovering from an injury that happened prior to the trade, Hector Olivera made his long awaited debut on September 1st for the Bravos. Finally Braves fans were going to get to see what this Cuban defect, that the organization gave a king’s ransom for, was worth. Olivera went 0 for 4 in that debut and has continued to struggle since. He has just 2 hits in his first 15 at bats, and some Braves fans are already calling for his head. While it is way too early to call this trade a bust or even proclaim the Braves as losers of the trade, it is not too early to wonder if the Braves mishandled the way Olivera was introduced to the big leagues, especially after the Kenshin Kawakami experiment.
The Braves (54-83) should have known months ago they were not going to be competitive. Olivera played 10 season in the Cuban National Series with a career average of .323. While Olivera is 30 years old, this is the first season he has ever spent playing outside of Cuba and has struggled with injuries for the majority of the time he has spent in the United States. In the midst of his injuries this season, Olivera only played in 35 minor league games for the Braves and the Dodgers. He hit .272 with 2 home runs in those 35 games and looked far from the same player he was in Cuba.
Even though he did not perform spectacular in his time in the minors, there was a lot of pressure on the Braves organization to get Olivera in the big leagues. After all, they did make quite an investment in a 30-year old prospect. Fans were anxious to see him play, and the organization may have succumbed to that pressure and rushed him into the big leagues. We know he has dealt with injuries, and it’s unclear whether he is 100%. Nevertheless, these next few weeks will be crucial for Olivera to prove to the fans that he can live up to the hype.