Yasiel Puig’s excellence is what Makes him Tradable
By Jacob Rudner
Five years ago you could not have predicted it. The 22-year old rookie burst onto the scene, tearing up the league on offense and defense thus garnering the nickname The Wild Horse from legendary broadcaster, Vin Scully. That season, 2013, was electric. Puig finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to the late, Jose Fernandez, and finished 15th in the MVP race. But from there, the road for the young Cuban outfielder would be rocky. Puig would face ups and downs like none of his teammates have ever seen and his value saw ebbs and flows with the consistency of weather. But, finally, in 2017, fans and players alike saw the Yasiel Puig of old- consistent, and productive. And, just a season later, the prospect of trading Puig should not be taken lightly.
The idea is not a new one. Through struggle and triumph both on and off the field in the last few seasons, Puig has been at the forefront of trade rumors involving the Dodgers. The reasons vary but often they are centered around his attitude, his relationship with management and the coaching staff, or his performance on the field defined only by his batting average- a shortsighted conclusion but often mentioned nonetheless.
If that is the route you choose to take when suggesting Puig should be traded then I can only tell you bluntly that you are wrong. His defense is unparalleled not only by those on his major league team or the rest of the league but by most, if not all, of the minor league options below him. Offensively, since joining the Dodgers, Puig has an OPS+ of 126 and a career WAR of 16.7, numbers that need no further discussion.
And, beyond his statistics, Puig has become a fan favorite. His energy and charismatic gestures throughout the game have planted themselves firmly in the hearts of the beholder. If you combine all these things, love him or not, Puig is worth keeping on the roster.
But, there exists another, less explored side of trading Puig. This one focuses on what he has done right as opposed to wrong.
Over the last few years, Puig has been more successful than in the middle years of his now six-season career. And, if anything at all, that has taught his followers that he is capable of flashes of brilliance. When hot, Puig is unstoppable and it has been well documented that when the 26-year old feels good in his head, he plays better on the field. Puig runs on emotion and it is not hard to catch wind of this when he flips his bat after a single or wags his tongue after sliding into third.
But, on the contrary, Puig’s cold streaks are ice cold. He looks defeated both emotionally and physically. But rather than looking down on his struggles, for the sake of argument, lets looks at it like unlocked potential. His inconsistencies are merely opportunities to improve and there is certainly a ton of room for improvement.
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This potential Puig possesses, this room to grow, is the reason living at the heart of this trade proposal. Puig is tradable not because of what he is but because of what he is not. After six seasons in pro-ball, Puig remains a mystery, and mystery translates to intrigue for many opposing front offices.
But, all this revolves back to the question of why. Why trade Puig’s unrivaled defense and his occasional flashes of offensive greatness? Why trade his team friendly contract with two more years of control?
The answer is perhaps more simple than you had previously imagined and that answer lies within two words: the future.
There is no hiding what the Dodgers have waiting in the wings of the minor league system. In Triple-A, the Dodgers house top fielding prospect, Alex Verdugo, an outfielder. In Double-A, they stash 6’6 slugging right fielder, DJ Peters, who has been lights out in 2018. In Single-A, Jeren Kendall roams the outfield grass, boasting his impressive combination of speed, power, and heads up defense.
Even if the options were narrowed to one of those three, DJ Peters, the logic behind trading Puig still exists. The Dodgers will want to clear a path for Peters. To do so, they need to capitalize on Puig’s unlocked potential before it gets hurt by continued struggles this year. Working to trade Puig now is crucial to get any possible large return. Struggles hurt Puig’s value more than anyone else because to everyone but Dodger fans, Puig has a seriously negative reputation so scrappy play is magnified tenfold.
And, as unfortunate as it may be, Yasiel Puig’s level of play has no place in the outfield of the future. The young Dodgers waiting for their shot have proven themselves emphatically and Puig has not yet done enough to warrant a permanent roster spot in Los Angeles.
So, if they are clearing a path for whom we think is the future then risking continued struggles on a guy whose value may still hinge on mystery is a risk not worth taking.
Puig can be traded. His value is certainly undeniable and that is the value the team should work to use in their favor while they still can. But, if the team is either struggling at the deadline or just thinking about the years to come, Puig’s undeniable trade value may just be on the market, not in Dodger Blue.
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