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Perrotto: Edward Olivares Has Far Outperformed His Original Contract

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Edward Olivares, Pittsburgh Pirates

Edward Olivares is already ahead of the game just by being in the major leagues.

It would be difficult to have more humble beginnings in professional baseball than those of the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. His career began when the Toronto Blue Jays singed him as an 18-year-old international amateur free agent from Venezuela for a bonus of just $1,000.

The minimum age for signing Latin American amateurs is 16. Once those players get beyond that age, they must settle for small bonuses.

So, Olivares did not break the bank when he got his chance to play pro ball.

However, he is beginning to make up for it. He is in his fifth major-league season and making $1.35 million after being eligible for salary arbitration for the first time in his career last winter.

While Olivares isn’t making anything close to the $70 million the Los Angeles Dodgers will pay Shohei Ohtani over the next 10 seasons, he isn’t complaining. The 28-year-old is enjoying his first season with the Pirates after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals on Dec. 15 in a trade for minor-league infielder Deivis Nadal.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Olivares said recently through translator Stephen Morales. “Obviously, the organization believed in me enough to want to bring me here and I’m really glad I get to play in front of this hungry fanbase. I’m having a lot of fun playing for the Pirates.”

The right-handed-hitting Olivares has played his way into platoon status as a right fielder. He usually starts against left-handed pitchers while first baseman Rowdy Tellez plays against righties with Connor Joe shifting from first to right.

Olivares hasn’t been a key cog for the Pirates and general manager Ben Cherington wasn’t expecting that when he made the trade. Olivares has made some contributions, though, with five home runs in 41 games to go with a slightly below average .229/.293/.374 slash line.

Olivares came to the Pirates with the reputation of being a poor defender and his minus-5 defensive runs saved haven’t changed that narrative.

Yet Olivares can make an impact at times. He became the first Pirates player to reach twice in the same inning this season on June 5 in a 10-6 victory over the Dodgers at PNC Park. He went 2 for 2 with two walks and three runs scored that night.

The Pirates have been pleased with Olivares’ overall performance.

“Just really reliable,” Cherington said. “He doesn’t play all the time. When he’s in there, you feel like when he’s at the plate he’s going to have a good at-bat. Feel like he’s going to give himself a chance to be productive in some way. Feel like the defense side of the game is something he’s worked hard at and feel like he’s made some improvement, has been pretty steady.

“He’s a super reliable, positive teammate. Just a pleasure to be around all the time. Overall, feel like he’s been a really good fit.”

Olivares found out about the trade while playing winter ball in Venezuela. He was a little surprised but hardly disappointed.

“I just saw it as another opportunity for me to continue to grow as a player,” Olivares said. “I just try to rely on my ability to play hard all the time. As a young player that’s new on this team, I want to play hard and do anything I can to help us win. I just want to help.”

Olivares has indeed helped and outplayed that thousand bucks the Blue Jays gave him as a teenager.

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