The Los Angeles Dodgers most recent experiences with Cuban players have been quite successful, most notably the dynamic Yasiel Puig. With this in mind, the organization announced the signing of Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to a five-year contract worth $25 million. This total reportedly includes a $7.5 million signing bonus.
The Dodgers are considered a favorite to win the National League pennant and advance to the World Series after falling short in the NLCS last season. While this signing is significant, Arruebarrena is not expected to become an immediate contributor to the big club, and will very likely require some seasoning in the minor leagues. The shortstop is considered an elite defensive player, but his offensive skills need polishing.
The Dodgers are clearly excited about the prospects for the 23-year old shortstop, who has logged six professional seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional league, playing with Puig in two of those seasons. While Arruebarrena will almost certainly begin in the Dodgers minor league system, General Manager Ned Colletti suggested the shortstop could find his way to the majors later in the season. “We think he adds to our major-league club at some point this year, someone who can play shortstop at a high level.”
Arruebarrena defected from Cuba last year and is currently in the Dominican Republic. The infielder will not be able to join the team for spring training until a work visa is secured. The Dodgers are eager to begin developing the player and are looking forward to getting him into their system. “We’ll get him as soon as we can get him here,” Colletti said. “We need to see him on an everyday basis.”
With the acquisition of Arruebarrena and fellow Cuban Alexander Guerrero, the Dodgers organization seems to be targeting international players as an alternative to the MLB Draft. Colletti elaborated further on this mindset before the signing of Arruebarrena was formally announced:
“We signed Alexander [Guerrero] and we’re trying to sign another player because it’s tough in the Draft to find those players. You are pretty limited in the Draft as far as good hitters that can play in the middle of the infield. The way we look at it, we have the need for it in our organization and we’ve gone after them the way we have.”
The Dodgers are hoping they have found their shortstop of the future in Arruebarrena. With current shortstop Hanley Ramirez likely moving over to third base if he signs a long-term extension with the team, the position will be available for Arruebarrena or possibly another prospect.