Puig's best could still be on deck for Dodgers
We acknowledge that Yasiel Puig occasionally drives the Dodgers crazy. OK, maybe more than occasionally. He's not always -- let's phrase this delicately -- punctual. He's not always the hardest-working guy in the building, and there are days his attitude could use an adjustment.
Puig seemed to drive former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly up a wall a time or two, and he's sure to do the same thing to the new skipper, Dave Roberts. On the field, his judgment isn't always the best, and that's being delicate.
So is this the offseason the Dodgers finally trade Puig? That's one of the questions baseball executives are asking one another this winter. Here's one thing we know for certain about Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman: He will find out what the market for Puig is. He will engage teams, and he will listen. Other than Clayton Kershaw, Friedman has no untouchables.
Yes, there are days when the Dodgers have wondered if Puig is worth the trouble, and we'd love to be a fly on the wall when they discuss the pros and cons of trading him.
Here's a guess: The Dodgers won't trade Puig. At least not now. Who trades a 24-year-old outfielder with tremendous numbers, a huge upside and a modest salary? Also, his value may not be at its highest after a season in which he played just 79 games and had two stints on the disabled list to deal with hamstring injuries.
At the end of the day, Friedman is nothing if not pragmatic about these things. Unless the Cardinals are willing to throw a Carlos Martinez or the Mets would part with one of their young starters, it's probably not happening.
For all the things that might drive his teammates crazy, Puig does bring something to the table that every club is trying to accumulate more of.
In a word, talent.
Puig is an excitable, electric package of gifts that don't come along very often. As Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said recently, "Puig's first 2 1/2 seasons, he was like one of the 20 best players in baseball. We are a different team when he is as healthy and as productive as he was in '13 and '14."
Puig is also a bargain. He'll make an average of a little over $8 million a season over the next three seasons. Maybe he still has some growing up to do. Big deal. Did you have some growing up to do at 24? And what if you'd come from a land of smothering poverty into one of incomprehensible wealth and adulation?
Another Cuban defector, Livan Hernandez, has spoken passionately of attempting to make the transition from having nothing to having it all. Things we take for granted -- supermarkets filled with fruits and vegetables, fast food places, beautiful cars and homes -- are things he had trouble processing.
None of this is meant to completely defend Puig for not being a better teammate or for not disciplining himself a bit more on the field and off. That said, there's probably nothing the Dodgers could get in terms of comparable value for an affordable player with a career .858 OPS. In Puig's three seasons, his OPS is higher than that of plenty of others, including Robinson Cano, Jayson Werth and Prince Fielder.
Puig has the ability to impact games with his legs, arm and bat, and all that talent and swagger may eventually translate into a generational type of player. After the injuries in 2015, Puig might be more motivated than ever to prove his greatness. He surely knows some people are questioning that. The Dodgers have asked him to lose a few pounds and adjust his swing. Will he?
While nothing is guaranteed about Puig's career arc, what separates him from hundreds of others is that he has a chance -- a chance -- to be a superstar. Those aren't the kind of players that get traded very often.