The Dodgers are nearing an agreement with Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (Spanish link). Arruebarruena, who defected from Cuba last year and established residence in Haiti, is traveling to the United States to take a physical, according to Rojas' source.
The 23-year-old Arruebarruena has six seasons of professional experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional and therefore is not subject to the spending restrictions placed on international amateurs. He is free to sign with any club for any amount.
Arruebarruena is considered an elite defensive shortstop, but most scouts have serious questions about his bat. Though Arruebarruena batted .320/.367/.520 in 306 plate appearances in Cuba from 2011-12, Ben Badler of Baseball America spoke with multiple scouts at the time of his defection and noted that many questioned whether Arruebarruena could manage a .220 average or .300 OBP in the Majors. He's also not a particularly fast player, further limiting his offensive upside. Given all of that info, it's not difficult to see why Arruebarruena has drawn comparisons to fellow Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias.
This would mark the third significant Cuban signing for the Dodgers in the past two years, as the team has also inked Yasiel Puig and Alexander Guerrero. The Dodgers appear set in the infield with Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, Guerrero (or Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon or Miguel Rojas) and Adrian Gonzalez. However, a deal for Arruebarruena would likely be made with an eye on the long-term. Badler noted in his write-up that the defensive wizard would almost certainly require some minor league seasoning to hone his offensive skills, possibly having to begin at the Double-A level.