According to ESPN's Buster Olney, despite the market currently being fairly thin, the Mets are continuing their search for a shortstop, apparently not wanting to leave a single stone unturned before handing over the reigns to semi-incumbent shortstop Wilmer Flores.
In the wake of Jimmy Rollins' trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a new potential option may have appeared. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers may now be open to trading Erisbel Arruebarrena.
The 24-year-old right-hander is owed $4.5 million for the 2015 season, $5.5 million for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and $6.5 million for 2018. His bat is not likely to contribute much value, but given enough playing time, his defensive ability would certainly justify that amount.
A native of Cuba, Arruebarrena was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba's "Pearl of the South". A gifted athlete, he made the Cienfuegos team as a 17-year-old and played for Los Elephantes Verde for the 47th Serie Nacional (2007-2008). He didn't exactly impress with the bat, hitting .210/.269/.300 in 100 at-bats, but his glove stood out. Even if the youngster never hit a lick in his career, he'd be retained on a roster simply for that glove.
As it turns out, Arruebarrena did figure out the offensive side of the game. He hit .249/.299/.349 in his last two teenage years, but things turned around for the 20-year-old in the 50th Serie Nacional (2010-2011). That year, he hit .275/.309/.484, his slugging percentage spiking thanks to 20 doubles (almost double his previous season high), 10 triples (more than triple his previous season high), and 9 home runs (more than double his previous season high). His turnaround was not a blip on the radar, as he was able to keep up the production, hitting .333/.383/.528 in the 51st Serie Nacional and .301/.371/.427 in the 52nd Serie Nacional, his last two seasons in Cuba.
In September 2013, just prior to the beginning of the Cuban baseball season, the shortstop was suspended for a year, barred from playing in the 53rd Serie Nacional de Beisbol. Though the official reason for the suspension was because the shortstop missed team practices, it is widely believed that the suspension was really handed out because Arruebarrena attempted to defect from the island. He wouldn't sit on the sidelines for very long, as he was able to leave the island two months later, quickly establishing residency in Haiti and setting up workouts to impress MLB scouts. In February 2014, the Dodgers signed the shortstop to a 5-year/$25 million contract, with a $7.5 million contract bonus.
Arruebarrena has a rightful reputation of being a "defensive wiz". According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, the shortstop isn't particularly fast, but his quick first step and very good natural instincts make up for it. He has soft hands, transfers the ball very quickly, and possesses plus-plus arm strength. While not necessarily Rey Ordoñez -- but then again, who is? -- Arruebarrena is among the best fielders to come out of Cuba.
Coming out of Cuba, there were concerns about his ability to hit major league-caliber pitching. Because of his long swing, difficulty recognizing pitches, and a general lack of discipline at the plate, some scouts were concerned that Arruebarrena would struggle to get on base at a .300 clip. Their concerns would prove valid, as the shortstop indeed struggled in his first year in the Dodgers' minor league system. Initially assigned to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, he hit .208/.252/.302 in roughly 100 plate appearances.
Arruebarrena got the call up to the Dodgers at the end of May, despite the sub-optimal numbers. He performed as you would have expected, hitting .195/.244/.220 in 45 plate appearances, and was optioned down to their Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, almost a month later. There, he found a bit more success with the bat, hitting .333/.400/.452.
His time in the Pacific Coast League came to an abrupt end in July, when the shortstop instigated a wild bases-clearing brawl in a game against the Reno Aces. In response to being brushed back earlier in the game, Arruebarrena took an exaggeratedly slow trip around the bases, showing up Reno in what was turning out to be a lopsided win for the Isotopes. The Aces took exception, and when Arruebarrena struck out in his next at-bat, catcher Black Lalli brushed him when he threw to third. The two men shoved each other, the benches cleared, and all hell broke loose.
For his role in the brawl, the Dodgers optioned Arruebarrena to their Advanced-A Affiliate, the Ranch Cucamonga Quakes. He played 12 games in the blistery heat of San Bernardino, hitting .245/.259/.490 before being promoted to the Dodgers once again and used sparingly, mostly as a defensive substitution.