The new Dodgers have money, and they're more than willing to spend it.
Thursday, they stunned the baseball world with a monster deal for 21-year-old Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig. Puig agreed to terms on a $42 million, seven-year deal, sources told CBSSports.com, beating a July 2 deadline for big-money international signings.
Puig's big power attracted interest from at least half a dozen teams, but baseball people familiar with the international market were still shocked by the size of his contract. Puig got more guaranteed money than either Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler, two Cubans who got much more publicity when they signed within the last year.
Puig was declared a free agent just this week after establishing residence in Mexico. He wasn't as well known as Cespedes and Soler, in part because Cuban authorities allowed him to play outside the country just twice.
The Cubans feared that Puig would defect, and it turned out those fears were justified.
Scouts who have seen Puig have come away impressed, although there are some concerns about his conditioning. He didn't hit a single home run on the first day of his Mexico workout, and tired quickly, blaming the high altitude in Mexico City.
There is also a belief among some scouts that Puig's adjustment to American baseball could take longer than that of Cespedes.
According to the Mexican website solobeisbol.com.mx, Puig worked out in Mexico for scouts from the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox, among others, in addition to the Dodgers. The Chicago Tribune reported this week that the Cubs were also bidding for Puig.
"You see him on the right day, he could be Vladimir Guerrero," said one scout who is familiar with Puig. "He doesn't have the power of [Giancarlo] Stanton or [Bryce] Harper, but he's close."
Puig had played in the Serie Nacional, the highest Cuban league. In the 2010-11 season, he hit .330 with 18 home runs in 327 at-bats. He has played outside of Cuba only twice, because the Cuban authorities were so concerned that he would defect (as he eventually did).
The Dodgers have been aggressive on the international market this year, with money available after the change in ownership. They signed Puig despite never having seen him play in an actual game.
Between Puig, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers have committed $287 million in long-term money going to outfielders over the last eight months.
As of next week, teams will be severely limited in handing out bonuses to most international players. Each team will have just a $2.9 million signing pool each year, with severe penalties for going over the limit.
Not all Cuban players will be covered by the new rules, which apply only to anyone who hasn't yet played three years in the top Cuban league (or in top leagues in Japan or Korea). A few Cubans with more than three years' experience are currently trying to establish residency in the Dominican Republic.
Puig, however, did not have three years in the Cuban league. He would have been covered by the new guidelines, so agent Jaime Torres faced a tight deadline in getting Puig signed.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com first reported that Puig had agreed to sign with the Dodgers.