Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Dodgers have a crowded outfield.
With the July 31st trade deadline approaching, rumors are flying and Yasiel Puig‘s name has been brought up. Not by the Dodgers, of course, who told Puig they would not be trading him after he asked about it. However, this poses the question, should the Dodgers look to move the 24-year-old outfielder?
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In short, no. However, I’m not a huge believer in untouchable. I believe in the Ruben Amaro Jr. school of thought of asking for the world for a player, but I don’t think I consider anyone untouchable. Some guys, like Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig, are pretty close and would demand an extremely high price.
Puig is signed to an extremely team-friendly deal, which makes it nonsensical to move him. Talented, young outfielders on a 7-year, $42 million contract don’t come around very often. He’s a great defender in right and despite his struggles this season, is still a dynamic offensive player.
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Most of the trade rumors surrounding Puig in the last few days have been illogical. According to Baseball Reference, his contract expires after the 2018 season, which will be his first arbitration eligible year and he won’t be a free agent until 2020, when he will be 29. That’s a lot of team control, which makes it illogical to move him for a player on a shorter contract. With Johnny Cueto off the market, we can finally put an end to the Puig for Cueto+ Aroldis Chapman rumors. That would have been roughly five years of an inexpensive outfielder for three months of an ace with arm issues and a dominant closer (which the Dodgers already have). Puig going to Detroit for David Price or Philly for Cole Hamels also doesn’t make sense. In a few years, theres a chance neither of them are on the team anymore. It would probably be an average win-now move, but it would really hurt the team long term.
You also have to look at the upcoming free agent class. Price, Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister and Scott Kazmir will all be free agents. There’s pitching to be had, and the Dodgers don’t need to trade a player like Puig to get it.
If Puig is moved, it leaves the Dodgers presumably with an outfield of Andre Ethier, Pederson, Carl Crawford/Scott Van Slyke, and Kiké Hernandez. Joc is a stud defensively and has good power and on-base skills, but is on pace for 194 strikeouts. Ethier has had a good bounceback year and is a steady player, but makes just as many questionable plays in the field that don’t get as much media attention Puig’s and is on the wrong side of 30. Crawford is great at the plate when healthy, which isn’t often. And he’s kind of terrifying defensively and has no arm. All three of these guys also struggle against lefties, which is likely where Van Slyke and Hernandez get playing time. They’re both solid, but none of them bring the excitement and potential that a guy like Puig does.
As for the outfield free agent market, after Justin Upton there really isn’t much. Yoenis Cespedes could be an option, but he’s basically an older version of Puig with more power. Jason Heyward will be available, but has yet to live up to his expectations offensively. He’s the best defensive outfielder in the game, but he’ll probably command a huge contract as well and wouldn’t necessarily be an upgrade over Puig.
There are a handful of players I would trade Puig for. If Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez somehow became available, I would drive Puig to LAX myself. There’s a huge difference in trading for a 30-year-old pitcher with one or two years left on a contract, and trading for another young, team controlled talent. And I’m pretty sure the Dodgers’ front office sees that difference.
There’s still a chance that Price, Gallardo or Samardzija are pitching for the Dodgers next week. It just won’t necessarily cost a guy like Puig. It also shouldn’t cost Seager or Urias, but pretty much everyone else is fair game. I just began to love Jose De Leon, so I would probably bet on him being moved. It’ll be interesting to see what this Dodgers team looks like in a week, but I would guess Puig will still be a part of it.