GLENDALE -- The Dodgers on Saturday finalized their deal with Cuban infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, a five-year pact worth a reported $25 million.
Arruebarrena will be subject to normal major league rules in that he won't be a free agent after his contract is up (like fellow Cuban signee Alex Guerrero, who will be a free agent after four years). Arruebarrena will need six years of major league service time to qualify for free agency.
The infielder will receive a $7.5 million signing bonus, per the Associated Press, plus salaries of $1.5 million in 2014, $3 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016 and 2017, and $5 million in 2018.
General manager Ned Colletti said the club views Arruebarrena as a shortstop in the long term, but could see time with the Dodgers at multiple positions in 2014.
"We think he adds to our major league club at some point this year," Colletti said. "His defense is good enough today that it was worth us signing.
"He's 23 years old, he's got power. We'll see if that can come along. There may be more in there, there may be some fine tuning that needs to be done. But when you can find someone who's a plus defender in the middle of the diamond you have to do it. As Logan White can tell you, the draft does not allow you to find that type of player a lot."
The 23-year-old right-hander hit .293/.366/.422 with six home runs and eight doubles in 270 plate appearances in 2012-2013 with Cienfuegos, where he was teammates with Yasiel Puig in 2010-2011.
Arruebarrena is currently at the Dodgers facility in the Dominican Republic waiting on a work visa before he can come to the United States. Colletti said he was not sure if Arruebarrena would receive his visa in time to take part in spring training with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers are still trying to sign current shortstop Hanley Ramirez to a long-term contract extension, and their current top prospect Corey Seager is a shortstop. But that didn't deter the Dodgers from adding another shortstop.
"Our conversations with Hanley, he's open minded to changing positions at some point and time," Colletti said. "You should never shy away from having talent, especially at key positions that you can't easily replace."
Colletti said international scouts Bob Engle, Patrick Guerrero and Mike Tovar had seen Arruebarrena extensively over time, and assistant general managers Rick Ragazzo and Vance Lovelace saw Arruebarrena play in the Dominican Republic over the winter.
"We are excited to sign Erisbel, who we’ve scouted in international competition for a long time." said Engle. "He brings another superb glove to our organization."
Arruebarrena has a shorter name than previously thought, with 12 letters in his last name rather than the previously thought 13-letter name Arruebarruena. If he does make the majors, his full name of 19 letters will fall just shy of the major league record, held jointly by William VanLandingham and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as noted by Diane Firstman at Value Over Replacement Grit.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated Justin Sellers for assignment. Sellers, 28, hit .199/.278/.301 in 86 games over parts of three major league seasons. He made the opening day roster in each of the last three seasons.
"It was tough on him," said manager Don Mattingly. "Justin was trying really hard. He feels like he worked hard this winter, and wanted to fight for that spot. He knew there were a couple spots open and he felt like he was one of those guys. It was not an easy conversation."
An encouraging note in the signing is that the Dodgers didn't place Chad Billingsley on the 60-day disabled list, which was certainly an option to create room on the 40-man roster. That would have made Billingsley ineligible to pitch before May 18.
Billingsley, who threw a bullpen session on Saturday, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"We're not prepared yet to put a timetable exceeding 60 days for Chad," said Colletti.