Angels are close to finalizing deal with Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin

Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin and Angels are close to finalizing deal

Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who agreed to an $8-million signing bonus with the Angels in November, obtained a visa to travel from the Dominican Republic to Miami on Monday and is scheduled to undergo a physical in Southern California next week.

Barring any snags, the Angels will finalize the deal with Baldoquin, 20, before Christmas, securing a highly regarded 5-foot-11, 195-pound player who could eventually replace Erick Aybar at shortstop or Howie Kendrick at second base.

"He looks like a cross between Yuniel Escobar and Adrian Beltre," Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He has a live body, he's strong, he understands the strike zone, he has good power and he knows how to put together an at-bat.

"He's not a raw, let's-wait-and-see-how-this-turns-out projection. He looks like a major league player now. He needs a little time in the minor leagues to adjust to a new country, but he's a pretty mature kid."

Dipoto scouted Baldoquin, who bats right-handed, in the Dominican Republic for three days in late October. He also had Angels first base coach Alfredo Griffin, a former major league shortstop, watch Baldoquin, who played three seasons in the Serie Nacional, Cuba's top league.

"We asked Alfredo, 'Can this guy play shortstop?' " Dipoto said. "He said, 'Yes, he can.' We believe he's a shortstop, an everyday player. He's a gifted defender with soft hands and the arm strength to play any infield position. … The only tool that grades out as average is speed. We don't see him as a flyer, a base stealer."

Dipoto said Baldoquin, the Angels' first major foray into the Cuban market since they signed Kendrys Morales for $3 million in 2004, will attend big league spring-training camp, and he expects him to start the season at Class-A Inland Empire or double-A Arkansas.

"We're really excited to bring him in," Dipoto said. "We feel it was the right player, the right fit, at the right time."

Short hops

Dipoto is "making progress" on acquiring a utility infielder via trade. Among the possible targets are Colorado's Josh Rutledge, Houston's Marwin Gonzalez, St. Louis' Pete Kozma, Boston's Brock Holt, Minnesota's Eduardo Escobar and Arizona's Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington.

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The Angels acquired backup catcher Drew Butera, 31, from the Dodgers for a player to be named or cash.

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