A certain LA Times writer thinks it’s time for the Dodgers to trade Yasiel Puig.
Believe it or not, this is Yasiel Puig’s fourth season in the major leagues. Time has flown by on that. Four years since his electrifying debut, and we’re still trying to figure out what type of player Puig is.
We know some facts about Puig’s game. Puig has a cannon attached to his right shoulder. Puig runs the bases like his hair is on fire. I honestly think Puig gets disappointed when he only hits a single. He hustles out of the box on every base hit and is always thinking two, and sometimes that comes back to bite him, but when it works it’s incredibly exciting. Puig has also had a tough time staying on the field. In 2014, Puig played in 148 games. In 2015+2016, he has played in 132 games combined. He’s currently on the DL with a hamstring problem, which was also a reason for his injuries last season.
After four years, there’s still plenty that we don’t know about Puig. What type of hitter is he? Puig posted a .319/.391/.534 triple slash in his rookie year and followed it up with a .296/.382/.480 in 2014, both of which are great. Since then, all his numbers have been down offensively and he goes through stretches where he looks like an automatic out. We also don’t know what kind of defensive player Puig is. His arm is one thing, but he wasn’t the most steady defender for his first three years. This season, which has been his worst offensively by far, Puig has 11 defensive runs saved, which puts him in a tie for second place with Nolan Arenado and Kevin Pillar, which you should all know is great company to be in. Half a season’s worth of defensive metrics aren’t the most reliable measure, but he’s played an elite level in right field and if he comes back healthy, he should be in the running for his first Gold Glove.
Puig used to be a player that hit the crap out of the baseball, but attitude and defense seemed like it would keep him from ever becoming a full-blown superstar. Now, the attitude and defense are there, but the bat went away. Bill Plaschke thinks it’s time to trade him. I disagree.
For starters, Puig’s bat and health have made his trade value extremely low. The potential is still there and surely people still recognize that, but can Puig bring back a player that makes him worth trading? Respectable LA Times writer Andy McCullough took a look at Puig’s trade value in his most recent mailbag.
"It’s unfortunate how this worked out: At a time when the Dodgers finally might be ready to move Puig, his value has never been lower. The team could get something back for him – lower-level prospects maybe, a starter approaching free agency, a decent reliever or two – but nothing like the mega-package once available."
I’m gonna ignore the “starter approaching free agency” part of this, as there’s really no starters set to become a free agent in the offseason that I would want the Dodgers to sign with money, let alone trade Puig for. Lower-level prospects? THAT would be a rebuilding move, not a re-tooling move like this FO has done. A decent reliever or two is the only part of that that even piques my interest, but it depends on the definition of decent. Not to say that Puig shouldn’t be traded by any means, but would you want him traded for a sixth/seventh inning arm? I don’t.
I get the feeling that people that want Puig traded don’t know his contract. Puig signed a seven-year, $42 million deal in 2012 that can keep him in LA until 2018. It’s backloaded, so according to baseball reference he’s on the books for roughly $7 million this year, $8 million next year and $9 million in 2018.
This past offseason, a talented, young right fielder signed with the Cubs. This outfielder was hyped up as a rookieand has never been a star on offense, but has been consistently one of the best defensive players in the game. Jason Heyward owns a .277/.354/.414 triple slash since June 3, 2013, which was the day of Puig’s debut (Puig’s career slash is .286/.360/.470). Heyward just signed an eight-year, $184 million dollar contract. If Puig can keep up this defense, even if he hits below his career average numbers, his contract will remain a steal.
If Puig was making $20 million a year, I’d be a lot more in favor of moving him. But at about $8 million a year for the next three years, he doesn’t need to be a superstar. He came up and was a superstar and raised his expectations way too high. He’s absolutely not living up to those expectations, but ignore those and look at what he IS. He is a 25 year old right fielder that might not be a great hitter, but could be one of the best defensive players in the game. Those players have value too, and just because Puig might not be a future hall of famer doesn’t mean he should be traded just for the sake of trading. If his attitude was still poor, I’d probably feel a bit differently. However, in his worst season to date, Puig’s attitude has seemed to stay positive and he just seems like a different person.
I’m not completely anti-trading Puig. I’d be OK with them moving him for the right package, but a great defensive player on a very team-friendly contract shouldn’t be dumped for a low level prospect or a random bullpen arm. If the Dodgers had traded Puig in a package in the offseason for Jose Fernandez, I’d have been thrilled. If he’s packaged for a Sonny Gray/Chris Sale star type of player, I’d be elated. But this isn’t a Carl Crawford/Alex Guerrero situation where the Dodgers are better off without him on the roster.
Yasiel Puig brings excitement to the game when he’s healthy. He hasn’t been healthy much for the last couple seasons, but when he’s on the field you get the feeling you’re about to see something you’ve never seen before. He might not be the player he looked to be when he first came up, but if he can be a .250/.320/.410 guy that plays great defense, you can’t sell low on that.