According to Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal, the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to terms with Cuban infielder Erisbel Arruebarruena. The five-year contract is reportedly worth $25 million and will include a $7.5 million signing bonus.
When the deal becomes official, Arruebarruena will become the second Cuban infielder to sign with the Dodgers since their 2013 postseason run ended. On Oct. 21, they agreed to terms on a four-year, $28 million deal with Alexander Guerrero. Guerrero is now in camp and competing for playing time at second base. If he proves ready, the job will be his. Arruebarruena, on the other hand, is still awaiting a work visa to enter the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, where he's currently training.
It's anticipated Arruebarruena will open the season in the minors regardless of when he arrives. With Hanley Ramierz and Guerrero on board, there's no opening for him anyway, but the Dodgers understand there are several kinks in his offensive game that need to be worked out.
In fact, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the 23-year-old is actually kind of a mess at the plate despite posting a .317/.415/.495 line in the second half of the Cuban season.
A righthanded hitter, Arruebarruena has a long swing, struggles with pitch recognition, swings through breaking balls in the strike zone and is prone to chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. He has a pull-oriented approach and minimal power, so several scouts are skeptical he could hit better than .220 or hit a .300 on-base percentage against major league pitching.
Not exactly a hitting coaches’ dream student, and it doesn't sound like there's much of an offensive upside to tap into.
So where is the upside? Well, obviously it has to come defensively. As Badler notes, one scout calls Arruebarruena a premium defender at a premium position that gives you a defensive advantage if you can hide him in your lineup. He's even drawn comparisons to Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, which at this point may be considered the highest praise one can give a middle infielder.
Now the question is, is that type of player worth the five-year contract Arruebarruena received, especially when he won’t be contributing right away?
To the Dodgers, apparently so. And since it’s their money to spend, it’s their opinion that matters most.
They're one team that can afford to make larger investments on their future for two or three years down the road and wait patiently to see how it plays out. Arruebarruena may not be that far off, but even if he is it's not likely to set them back. It's almost like buying an expansive lottery ticket that you know will eventually pay off in some way, so you take the chance to hit the jackpot all while bathing in your current riches.
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