So the Dodgers have called up Yasiel Puig, and he's going to play in center field tonight against the Padres. You might remember Puig: in spring training, he batted .517. But there just wasn't room for him in the Dodgers' outfield, so he opened this season with Double-A Chattanooga. But with Puig batting .313/.383/.599 in the minors and Matt Kemp out of action, suddenly there's room. So up Puig comes. As Bill Shaikin notes, though, we probably should temper our excitement just a bit:
In spring training, Mattingly compared Puig to Bo Jackson. In his discussion of Puig on Sunday, Mattingly dropped the name of the best baseball player in Southern California.
"You saw with the Angels and Mike Trout last year, he came up and things completely turned around with what he brought to the table," Mattingly said. "It's unfair to say that happens here, but he could make a big impact."
Here's the thing: Trout wasn't making his major league debut last year, when he hit .326 with 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. Never in major league history had a player done so well in all three categories.
But Trout made his major league debut in 2011, after 249 minor league games. He played 14 games, hit .163 with one home run, and the Angels sent him back to the minors.
The Dodgers are calling up Puig after 63 minor league games. That does not mean he is not ready. Trout was 19 when he was first called up, and the Angels signed him out of high school. Puig is 22, and he had played in the top Cuban league before he defected and signed with the Dodgers.
A couple of things...
The Dodgers already have three outfielders, and three pretty good ones. Or at least three with pretty good (for their bank accounts!) contracts. Left fielder Carl Crawford and center fielder Matt Kemp are both earning $20 million this season, while right fielder Andre Ethier's making $13.5 million.
But of course it's way, way more than just this season. AFTER THIS SEASON, the Dodgers owe roughly $280 million to their three primary outfielders; Crawford and Ethier are locked up through 2017, Kemp through 2019. So if everything went according to the Dodgers' so-recently-laid-plans, there wouldn't be any room for Puig in the lineup for a long, long time.
But of course everything hasn't gone according to plan. Sort of the opposite of that. Crawford didn't help the Dodgers at all last year, and this year he's been productive but (again) injury-prone. Kemp's been one of the worst every-day players in the majors, and now he's on the Disabled List. And Ethier's power seems to have disappeared, although at least he's been able to stay off the DL (so far).
Hey, it's the Dodgers. Money's supposedly no object. So if they have to trade somebody (Ethier seems the most likely candidate) and the club has to eat a few tens of millions of dollars, no big deal. Maybe that's one of those good problems to have. But all those outfielders are one reason to think that Puig isn't going to turn this team around all by himself; before he can do anything (for long), somebody has to go. And trading a player with a huge contract usually takes some time.
Other reasons: Yasiel Puig is just one player, and it's also not clear that he's anything like the sort of player who can even begin to turn a team around. Especially this team. As brilliantly as Mike Trout played last season upon joining the Angels, they still finished in third place.
Shaikin points out a few other caveats: For example, Puig drew zero walks in spring training. Another: "The Dodgers also believe maturity and professionalism remain works in progress for Puig, who was arrested for driving 97 mph in a 50-mph zone in April."
More, this time from Baseball America: "Before defecting to Mexico, he had been barred from playing in Cuba's professional league during the 2011-12 season for disciplinary reasons... Som observers question his maturity, as he rubbed opponents and scouts the wrong way during his time with high Class A Rancho Cucamonga."
I think Puig's probably going to be a star, and I'm super-excited about seeing him play tonight. But any notion that he's going to cure what's ailed the Dodgers is probably going to prove wrong, spectacularly.
For much more about Puig and the Dodgers, please visit SB Nation's True Blue LA.