Yasiel Puig is a former All-Star. He's young and cheap, and he's melting Triple-A pitching (.396/.448/.698 in 58 plate appearances). There should be teams who want to take a chance on him. There should be teams that are speed-dialing the Dodgers front office.
There is also the ... the Puiginess that comes along with him, though. Salary shouldn’t be an issue, considering he’s owed $17.5 million over the next two seasons, which is just a little more than Chris Young got in the open market. It doesn’t matter which one. Puig is underpaid, even by hope-this-works standards. Yet it might be that teams are uniformly scared of the guy. From Nick Cafardo on Sunday:
The Dodgers are trying to give away Puig, but no luck. Puig, with Triple A Oklahoma City, is considered toxic at the moment, but it takes only one team to want him. He doesn’t have too many allies in the Dodgers organization, but as one team official said recently, "At some point, the talent, the maturity is going to take hold. Someone will benefit from it. We hope it’s us, but it’s hard to envision it right now."
If you’re looking for the premature post-mortem of Puig’s Dodgers career, there’s something on that here. This is the next logical step, which is to look at the words "The Dodgers are trying to give away Puig" and squint. Maybe say "c’monnnnnnnnn" like Paulie Walnuts. Then it's time to be skeptical again. Because the Dodgers really can't give him away? Really?
Then it's time to figure out which team should take a shot.
But it’s not as simple as picking a random team and slapping Puig onto the rosters. There are other concerns.
Bobby Evans: We’d like to trade for Puig, as we’ll have an opening in the outfield after Angel Pagan leaves.
Farhan Zaidi: Let’s see ... the upside is that the low-cost headache is out of the organization.
Zaidi: And the downside is that a former franchise cornerstone in his mid-20s is given to our divisional blood rival, where he has the potential to thrive and metaphorically decapitate us season after season, holding the organization’s bloody head aloft as he screams "PUIIIIIIIG" loud enough to shatter car windows.
Zaidi: Well, this is a dilly of a pickle.
So I’ll just cross the Giants off the list. And I’ll do the same with the Marlins, Pirates and Red Sox, three teams who should have the same excellent outfield intact for the next few years. There are teams that might not need to take a chance on an embattled outfielder right now, have a full outfield, or have prospects they don’t want to block.
My top five teams who could make sense as a home for a wayward Yasiel Puig:
5. Los Angeles Angels
They would be higher if I were certain the Dodgers would entertain the idea. The two teams aren’t opposed to trading with each other — Howie Kendrick was something of a favorite in Anaheim, remember — but this has the potential to make the Dodgers look like absolute buffoons. It would be better if they had to wear it while Puig were doing well 3,000 miles away.
That written, the Angels are perfect. They don’t have a farm system they can count on. They have Mike Trout, which means the window is, and always will be, slightly ajar. And because the Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry platoon didn’t work, they’re starting Nick Buss. Considering he’s 29 and has been good for a .350ish on-base percentage in Albuquerque and Salt Lake City — Coors-type parks without the humidor — without any power, I’m going to guess this is just a temporary arrangement.
Puig would slot right in, and he wouldn’t have the pressure of a pennant race on his brain. He could just Puig the hell out of the place, and he would know that his old team and his old fans would be watching. That’s the only reason why the Angels aren’t the likeliest suitor. The potential embarrassment factor is substantial.
4. Chicago White Sox
We’re in year three of the Avisail Garcia Experience, and he’s accrued 1,283 plate appearances for the White Sox, with an adjusted OPS of 93. He’s been worth approximately 0.0 WAR, give or take. The awful season that’s led to Puig losing his roster spot? An adjusted OPS of 91 and a win above replacement. Now combine that with the knowledge that the two players are the same age, and that only one of them has a previous history of excellence at the major league level, and which one do you want on your roster?
The one who isn’t going to be a distraction, perhaps. And that’s a fair point! There is a mountain of solidly reported anecdotal evidence that Puig is an immature jerk, even by typical baseball prima donna standards, and it’s likely this is the reason most teams are staying away.
Puig is just 25, though. He’s a 25-year-old former All-Star who was worth five wins and picked up MVP votes in both his age-22 and age-23 seasons. If you’re a team like the White Sox, too invested in pitching to rebuild, too porous to reload effectively, this is just about the perfect slot machine lever to pull. If it doesn’t work, you’re out Melky Cabrera money for a couple years.
If it does work? That’s one huge step closer to not frittering away two of the best pitchers you might have for decades.
This isn’t just about the Reds. Feel free to substitute the Brewers, Braves, Twins or any other rebuilding team. The Reds just fit especially well because they got Scott Schebler from the Dodgers to play right, and it hasn’t worked out yet. So think of it like a very generous exchange policy.
If you’re a rebuilding team, you have to abide by the three-year rule, in which you acknowledge that any roster can be three years away from a pennant. Any roster. Here are the 2003 Tigers. Look through that roster. Look at their top 10 prospects from before that season. Only Omar Infante had a lengthy career. They won the pennant three years later.
So you want players you can either a) trade for prospects at some point or b) will be around for the next good team. Puig is both. He’s under contract for two more seasons, and he’s arbitration eligible for a season after that.
The risk is that Puig wastes your time and money. That’s fine. The time was going to be spent on losing, regardless, and the money wasn’t going to any of the top free agents on the market anyway. The reward is a humbled-ish Puig who recaptures the magic he had in his first two years, and that kind of player could be exchanged for exactly what the rebuilding team needs, unless he happens to be exactly what the rebuilding team needs when it emerges from its chrysalis.
Plus, your fans are getting a little bored. Give them Puig.
2. San Diego Padres
I love Baseball-Reference.com, but the romantic in me wishes that it didn’t exist, so that when I found out that someone named Patrick Kivlehan was starting for the Padres, I would get to sigh loudly, trudge over to the bookcase, pull out a dusty, 75-pound book, and slam it on a table, just to look him up. I’ve always wanted to be a surly maester, but for baseball stats.
Anyway, the Padres have prospects and a plan, and they probably shouldn’t be up this high. But they would also like to bug a divisional rival, and considering they gave away Yasmani Grandal in exchange for the bulk of Matt Kemp’s contract, the Dodgers owe them a solid. When it’s time to get Manuel Margot and/or Hunter Renfroe into the lineup, I’m sure they’ll figure it out, maybe even with a trade, because if there’s one thing that the Padres shouldn’t worry about, it’s watching a young player thrive with another organization.
Okay, maybe this is a bad idea. I’m still absolutely stunned by the Matt Kemp trade, though, and I feel like there needs to be some sort of cosmic fix. One of these days, the Padres are going to rise up and rip the faces off baseball and all of their intra-divisional bullies. In the screenplay I’m writing, they do it with Puig.
1. New York Yankees
Pretty much. We know they aren’t as concerned with temperament (Aroldis Chapman) or general immaturity (Starlin Castro). They’ll need an outfielder, but they don’t want to pay a lot of money. Youth is something that they’re going for now, with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius forming the young core the team has been without for over a decade. Puig checks all of those boxes.
And if you’re looking for another box to check, how about a right-handed hitter who can take advantage of the lively and short right-field porch?
Look at all those cheap home runs, just waiting to benefit the Yankees. The tricky part is that they would have to make room. Brett Gardner isn’t hitting much, but he is owed $26 million for the next two years, and his defense is still keeping his overall value afloat. That means he shouldn’t be impossible to move ... but it also means that there isn’t a perfect reason to replace him with a possible malcontent having his worst season in the majors.
At the same time: Young! Inexpensive! A right-handed power stroke! If you don’t see how this works out for the Yankees, you lack imagination and a healthy fear of the Yankees.
The internet gavel has slammed down. He’s on the Yankees now, and it’s going to cost them nothing. Because this post is predicated on the Dodgers just giving him away, possibly to a team that has a large outfield, where he can run around and collide with other Puigs all day. As long as that’s valid, I’m pretty sure the Yankees make a sick, logical kind of sense for his eventual destination.