The Braves need Hector Olivera

Atlanta needs to shell out the money to sign Hector Olivera.

We don't know much about Cuban baseball player Hector Olivera. We know he can hit, and that's about it. He can play second base, third base and left field. We know he's a bit older than your normal international prospect that is preparing to cash in with a big contract.

Reports Wednesday from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.com had the Braves offering four years and $40 million for the free agent, whom the Braves would place in left field at some point if he were signed.

They may be outbid by the Dodgers or another team with more money to spend. But the Braves need to do everything they can to sign this potential offensive star.

Sure, it's a gamble. Any contract for an international player is a gamble. Sure, it would eat up a significant portion of the Atlanta payroll. But this is a player the Braves really need.

This will be a transition year for the Braves. This will not be a team you will see in magazines as potential World Series contenders. But the one thing needed this season is a big bat.

The Braves spent much of their offseason trades to rework the pitching depth in the organization. That's good. That is exactly what they should have done. But the offense, both short-term and long-term, is a concern.

We know for this season they will have Freddie Freeman and Nick Markaksis as the main cogs in the lineup. They hope Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethancourt, both defensive wizards, can be decent at the plate. Who knows what do expect with Chris Johnson at third base. And the outfield? Ugh, let's skip to the next subject.

And long-term? It's not pretty. There are not many high-impact outfield prospects, at least not yet. There's a good chance Mallex Smith can be in that category soon. But he's a year or two away. The Braves need a good outfielder, preferably one that can hit.

That's where Olivera comes into play. He can really hit. He's impressive. Wouldn't he be cheaper, at even five years and $50 million, than signing another B.J. Upton? Would it be better to sign him rather than giving up young pitching in a deal to get a bat? Yes, it would. The Braves have a need. Olivera could be a big part of the lineup, both in 2015 and in years to come.

The lineup is taking shape in Florida. Eric Young is going to sit in for Upton and will hit leadoff. It looks like Jace Peterson will hit second. Once Markakis gets back, he should hit third, with Freeman behind Markakis in the cleanup spot.

But then what?

Who will hit then hit fifth? Who will protect Freeman in the order? Johnson? Jonny Gomes? Neither will strike fear in opposing pitchers. The Braves need another significant hitter, and that need is worth the gamble of signing an older international player.

If Olivera has truly been offered more money by the Dodgers, why hasn't he signed yet? If he's been offered $70 million, he would have jumped at that already, right? Perhaps it does matter than manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca are Cuban. Perhaps Olivera does want to stay closer to home, on the east coast.

The Dodgers don't need Olivera. The Braves do. They need another bat for 2015 and for the next several years, until they can develop additional outfielders that can play into the 2020s. The Braves just don't have high-impact outfield prospects in the system right now.

But will the Braves take the plunge? They may have to increase their offer, but they need to. Olivera may be the position player equivalent of Kenshin Kawakami, but the Braves' need is so desperate, a big contract is worth the gamble.

It's not like Olivera is going to be worse than B.J., I mean Melvin Upton.

Or, at least, let's hope he wouldn't be.

Sign him Braves! Just do it!

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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