The most surprising news in the baseball world today is that the Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a seven-year deal worth $42 million.
This would be the most money ever given to a Cuban defector, surpassing the four-year, $36 million deal Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes received in February. It's also much more -- both in terms of overall dollars and average annual value -- than the nine-year, $30 million contract the Chicago Cubs gave to outfielder Jorge Soler earlier this month.
The impetus for these enormous deals seems to be the impending international spending cap, which will kick in this summer and will allow teams to spend just $2.9 million on international free agents from July 2 to July 1, 2013. This cap stands to affect Cuban players more than those from other countries, as we've seen, with three eight-figure deals given to Cuban players in the past eight months.
The cap also will make it much harder for a big-money team to swoop in and blow away the competition with an outrageous offer, which is what the Dodgers are doing here.
Based on what I've heard about Puig, this is a bizarre overreaction to the upcoming international spending cap, and a huge bet that, despite a stiff swing and less athletic body than Soler, Puig's bat is good enough to justify an investment of this size. I've also heard that Puig was badly out of shape in his recent workouts in Mexico, and that his throwing arm is not as strong since it was last seen in games. And unlike Soler or Cespedes, Puig barely has played in games outside of Cuba, so major league scouts have not had much of an opportunity to evaluate him properly.
I'm not sure what other team was willing to offer Puig anything close to what L.A. did. The Dodgers' peace dividend won't matter if they squander it on deals like this and the Andre Ethier extension.