Erisbel Arruebarruena free agency: Cuban shortstop close to deal with Dodgers, per report

Koji Watanabe

Arruebarruena is a defensive whiz, though there are concerns as to how his bat will play in America.

The Los Angeles dodgers and Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena are closing in on a deal, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.

Arruebarruena has reportedly traveled to the United States from Haiti, where he has established residency after defecting, in order to take a physical with the team. Typically that is one of the last steps in finalizing a contract.

After a failed attempt to escape Cuba in October that led to a suspension for the 2013-14 Cuban Serie Nacional season, Arruebarruena successfully defected in November. Since leaving the island, Arruebarruena has been showcasing his talents for MLB teams in the Dominican Republic.

Scouts have heavily praised Arruebarruena's glove-work, though his bat is questionable. Many see him in the same mold as fellow countrymen Jose Iglesias and Adeiny Hechavarria -- possible Gold Glovers that will likely hit in the bottom third of the order. In particular, Arruebarruena is said to struggle with pitch recognition and handling breaking balls while having a bit too long of a swing.

The 25-year-old had an up-and-down year at the plate for Cienfuegos during the 2012-13 season, hitting .275/.324/.366 in the first before picking it up with a .317/.415/.495 line in the second half. He is not a big stolen base threat with so-so speed, but makes up for that on defense with a quick first step and excellent instincts, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.

If he does indeed sign with the Dodgers, it would not be surprising to see him first spend time in the minor leagues a la Yasiel Puig. The club already has Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, though he will be a free agent following the 2014 season. The Dodgers have also signed Cuban second baseman Alex Guerrero this offseason.

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