Since word came out earlier this month that the Dodgers were close to signing Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena — and I’m happy to say that this site was the first one to have a full post on it, so thanks, Dustin — we’ve been hearing a bit more about how scouts view him, and now we know a bit more about what the financial outlay will be.
First, some scouts:
Scout on the newest Dodger, Cuban SS Erisbel Arruebarruena. Lots of questions about his bat. Elite glove, ++. Likely start at High-A or AA.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 12, 2014
Scout: Arruebarruena is like Jose Iglesias only with worse bat. Considering Iglesias’ mediocre-at-best bat, signing comes with lots of risk.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 12, 2014
Ben Badler, Baseball America:
Arruebarruena, 23, was the shortstop on the Cuban national team and earned rave reviews from scouts for his defense, though there are serious reservations about whether he will hit enough to be an everyday player. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena is smooth hands, clean actions and terrific defensive instincts, with good range despite being a below-average runner. He has a 70 arm on the 20-80 scale, gets rid of the ball quickly and makes accurate throws from anywhere on the field, leading some scouts to project him as a potential Gold Glove winner.
At the same time, Arruebarruena might never hit higher than eighth in a National League lineup. His righthanded swing is long, he swings through pitches in the strike zone and is prone to chasing pitches off the plate with a pull approach, limited pitch recognition and isn’t a major power threat. Last summer in the United States against the U.S. college national team, his final time playing outside of Cuba before defecting, Arruebarruena went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and was often removed late in the game for offensive reasons.
Arruebarruena: Great glove, horrid bat, long name. Anything else to add?
That’s about right. I haven’t talked to anyone who feels like he’ll hit.
Scouts aren’t always right — I will never forget the quote from Buster Olney that one team saw Yasiel Puig as a “$500,000 player” — but this all jibes with what we already knew about him. His glove is outstanding, his bat not so much. The question, apparently, is whether his glove can carry the lack of offense, a question the Miami Marlins are currently dealing with, considering that their own young Cuban shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, has just a .232/.269/.311 line in 715 major league plate appearances.
Today, thanks to Jesse Sanchez, we’re learning a bit more about when the deal will be official and what it may cost when it does:
According to industry sources, the 23-year old has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and was cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to enter into a contract with a Major League club after he established residency in Haiti.
The infielder is currently working out in the Dominican Republic and is waiting on a P-1 work Visa before he can finalize what is expected to be a five or six-year deal worth $25 million with Los Angeles. The Dodgers, who also signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million contract this winter, have not confirmed the Arruebarruena signing.
It now sounds like only a matter of time before the paperwork is finished, and we should hopefully see Arruebarruena in camp soon. But what about the cost for a player who most don’t think can even be an average hitter?
Hechavarria signed for four years and $10 million with Toronto back in 2010, and Iglesias for four years in $8.25 million with Boston in late 2009. Since there’s been some annual inflation in the years since, it makes sense that Arruebarruena would get more than that, though if that number is accurate, it’s not just a little more, it’s considerably more.
If you’re asking me to defend that kind of outlay based on what we know, I suppose I can’t. It seems unreasonable, but then I guess the truth is that we don’t really know the true story. We don’t know what other clubs were in on the bidding, and we can only assume that the Dodgers have higher regard for his offensive skills than everyone else does. I suppose at this point they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, but still, it’s surprising.
Then again, while “$25 million” sounds like a lot, it’s important to remember that this is spread over five (or six years). The Dodgers are essentially paying him to be worth one win a year. Reportedly, his glove is excellent enough to make that happen, and an elite glove combined with a below-average bat is still a valuable player at shortstop — as long as the bat really is “below-average” and not “atrociously unplayable.” Either way, the deal won’t prevent the Dodgers from doing anything else, of course, and it doesn’t count against any international cap, so even if it sound like a lot, we should be thrilled to be following a team that can do things like this.
I imagine this means the Dodgers are probably not in on shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who is still searching for a fit, though at this point with this Scrooge McDuck team, I wouldn’t rule anything out. Maybe they sign him just to have a spare Cuban shortstop stashed away in a penthouse somewhere. Maybe that’s what Arruabarruena is for.
Either way, he’s apparently going to be in the organization soon enough, and my guess is that he starts in the minors, likely at wherever Corey Seager doesn’t between Rancho Cucamonga and Chattanooga. Most likely that means Double-A, since I don’t think Seager gets pushed there to start the season, or maybe even Triple-A Albuquerque.
More to come, no doubt.