The Dodgers are getting closer to their deal with Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena per multiple reports, and a few more details have leaked out. For one, the contract is for a reported $25 million over five years, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, including a signing bonus of $7.5 million.
Arruebarrena was cleared by both MLB and the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The only obstacle remaining is a work visa that will allow Arruebarruena to enter the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, where he is working out.
The Dodgers haven't yet announced the deal, though it's not necessarily because the shortstop doesn't have his visa. After all, the Dodgers completed their deal with fellow Cuban Alex Guerrero in October — in other words, he completed his physical — and he didn't get his visa and come to the U.S. until January.
As we wait for the contract to be finalized, there are a few questions that need to be answered.
When will Arruebarrena reach the majors?
The shortstop last played for Cienfuegos in the 2012-2013 season, with 125 plate appearances coming after the World Baseball Classic in March. In other words, he hasn't played competitively for 10 months. We've already seen hesitance from the Dodgers regarding the similarly dormant Guerrero at second base, but with a full spring training under his belt he has a chance to play his way on to the team.
The longer Arruebarrena goes without entering the country, the fewer reps he can get in spring training, with major league instruction and against mostly major league talent. Back in November based on his offense, Arruebarrena was projected to begin his pro career stateside in Double-A by Ben Badler of Baseball America.
A side note on this is the question on the flip side: How can the Dodgers give $25 million to someone who is not major league ready?
But the answer to that is simple. It's the cost of doing business. Just because we are used to players getting drafted and falling under a slotting system that restricts their earnings, we are not used to the free market for amateur players. There are no restrictions or caps on signing international players age 23 or older with at least six years of professional experience, so Arruebarrena's market was also unfettered in that regard.
When will Arruebarrena be a free agent?
The standard method is for a player to gain free agency after accruing six seasons of major league service time. That is the case with fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig, whose contract runs through 2018 but will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season.
Puig signed at 21, while Guerrero signed at 27. Guerrero negotiated the right to free agency after his four years are up. We don't yet know the particulars of the contract for the 23-year-old Arruebarrena.
What is the corresponding move?
I am assuming that, like Puig and Guerrero, Arruebarrena will get a major league contract, meaning he will have to be added to the 40-man roster immediately. Since the Dodgers' 40-man roster is currently full, that means a corresponding move will need to be made.
While it's certainly possible a player could be designated for assignment, I think the leader in the clubhouse for this move would be to transfer Chad Billingsley to the 60-day disabled list. Billingsley is coming back from Tommy John surgery and not expected back until June or perhaps late May at the earliest. The Dodgers can back date DL trips to March 19, meaning Billingsley would be eligible to be activated as early as May 18, which is well within his timetable of recovery.