Via AllinOne Sports
As has been the case for about a year now, the Los Angeles Dodgers may be looking into trading Yasiel Puig. The once awesome Puig has undergone a huge fall from his first two seasons where he put up a combined slash line of .305/.386/.502. When comparing these two elite seasons to where he is now in 2016 at .257/.321/.379, his precipitous decline has to be concerning. Between injuries and simple underperformance, Puig has gone from one of the game’s best young players to one of the biggest underachievers. As a result, it is no surprise the Dodgers have been evaluating whether or not to deal him. Unfortunately, the team’s once-vaunted outfield depth has begun to erode and Puig’s importance has only increased over the past few weeks. Therefore, the Dodgers should make the difficult decision to pass on a potential deal for their once star outfielder.
At 25 years old with two all-star game appearances under his belt, Puig has shown the raw ability to be a good player in the major leagues. Over the past two seasons, Puig has been hampered by hamstring problems that limited him to a mere 79 games last year and has already landed him on the disabled list once this season. This past offseason, the Dodgers requested that he drop weight in order to decrease the stress on his legs, and he obliged, losing about 15 lbs. Puig is noticeably skinnier this season, but his hamstring issues have persisted as he has already been on the disabled list once with the same injury that cut his 2015 season short. Since returning from the injury, however, Puig has been far more effective at the plate. Since June 21 when he returned from the DL, Puig has hit .307/.404/.427, increasing his OPS by 56 points to exactly .700. Although he is still well below where he once was, Puig may be turning it around after his slow start. As has been the case since he first reached the majors with the Dodgers, the team has been much better with him performing at a high level, putting up a 13-9 record in the 22 games since he has been back. Plus, in the games that Puig has started since June 21st, the Dodgers are 11-4 when Puig records at least one hit. It is obvious the Dodgers are a much better team when Puig is playing well. If he can continue to improve and return closer to the levels we saw from him in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Puig can be a major catalyst in helping the Dodgers reach the postseason.
On opening day, the Dodgers had six outfielders on the roster, and seven for the team’s first home game when Howie Kendrick returned from the DL. Only three of the seven are now currently active in Kendrick, Puig, and Scott Van Slyke. The depth has been eroded by injuries and underperformance, causing the team to now rely on minor leaguers Andrew Toles and Zach Walters. Van Slyke is the only active player outside of Puig to have any experience in right field, and most of his time has been spent in left field in the first place. Plus, Kendrick will likely see more time on the infield throughout the rest of the season in order to preserve the health of 37-year-old Chase Utley. That leaves Puig and Van Slyke as the only two major league caliber right-handed hitters in the outfield as Walters will likely be optioned back to the minors on Tuesday when Joc Pederson returns from the disabled list. With all of the injuries, the Dodgers need Puig. Trayce Thompson and Kike Hernandez are not close to returning from the disabled list, leaving Puig as the only player on the roster with significant experience in right field. Were the Dodgers to trade Puig, Van Slyke would be the only player able to play in right, and he has only made 34 starts there in four seasons. Until Thompson and Hernandez return from the DL, the Dodgers do not have the ability to trade Puig and field an adequate replacement in his stead. Furthermore, Puig has been an excellent defender in right, ranking third in outfield assists, fourth in range factor, and sixth in defensive wins above replacement among national league right fielders. Trading Puig would mean the Dodgers lose probably their best defensive player without having a replacement that can come close to Puig’s production with the glove.
Lastly, trading Puig now when his market value is near its all-time low is simply not a smart business decision particularly after his strong performance after returning from the DL. Teams that are in need of an outfielder at the trade deadline include the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, and Washington Nationals. Of those four, only the Royals and the Nationals could realistically offer a piece(s) that would immediately improve the Dodgers right now. Plus, Puig would have to be packaged with another player, most likely a starter from the soon to be overcrowded Dodgers rotation such as Alex Wood, in order for a team to give up someone that can help the Dodgers’ playoff chase. For example, a trade of Puig and Alex Wood to the Royals for Yordano Ventura and two prospects such as Chase Vallot (a young catcher with great all-around upside and has performed well in the minors despite being just 19 years old) and Alec Mills (mid-rotation caliber starter that is MLB ready and could help in the rotation or the bullpen now) would be one possible deal the Dodgers could attempt to pursue. However, it is debatable how teams value Puig based on his inconsistent production and past issues with teammates. Ventura is similar to Puig in that his issues off the field and underperformance have led to a significant fall from grace in the organization, but for a team like the Royals that is light on starting pitching, dealing their highest upside starter who could still become an ace would be a gamble. In a deal with other teams, it would be difficult for the Dodgers to get a sizeable package in return for Puig when only having to sell his small 22 game sample size since coming off the DL as the only proof that he is returning to the hitter he once was. For a team like the Dodgers in the middle of a playoff race that needs to improve rather than trade existing contributors, dealing Puig now would most likely bring back a return that would not help the roster as much as simply keeping him.
The Dodgers have a tradeoff to make with Puig. If they keep him and his improvement over the past month stalls, the Dodgers may have to deal with a below average bat in the lineup until Thompson and Andre Ethier return from the DL. On the other hand, Puig could continue his upward trend and help propel the team to a wild card spot or even the division title. The problem with trading Puig is that the Dodgers do not have an adequate replacement waiting in the wings at this time, and it would be difficult for the front office to find a trade that actually improves the major league roster. If the team really wants to get rid of Puig, an offseason deal would be far more fitting as the front office would have the time to ensure that right field does not become a defensive hole. For many Dodger fans who have grown tired of Puig and his underperformance, it appears as though they will have to bear through another half season of him at the very least. And though this may seem like the wrong decision, it is the best option the Dodgers currently have.
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