Has Puig changed? Dodgers will find out soon

Club will hold closed-door meeting with him before deciding whether to call him up

September 1st, 2016

DENVER -- Meanwhile, back at the ballpark, the Dodgers were focused Wednesday on trying to maintain their slim lead over the Giants in the National League West, looking for a way to end the franchise's 27-year World Series championship drought.

? He is still with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate at Oklahoma City, still in the headlines after reports that a mystery team placed a waiver claim on him, but truth be told, he is not likely to be going anywhere unless it's a September callup to the Dodgers.

A callup could come as early as Thursday, when the active rosters expand from 25 players to 40, but Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said no decision has been made on Puig's situation, and before any decision is made, there will be a closed-door meeting with Puig.

What is known is that the Dodgers aren't expecting any last-second deal that would have Puig changing organizations this season. Yes, he was put on waivers. Yes, it became headlines because earlier in the month Puig was demoted to Triple-A. And yes the rumblings flared up Tuesday night because reports surfaced that another team had put in a waiver claim.

No, that is not necessarily a big deal, not in August.

"It's a formality, all players go through it, and it rarely results in a trade," Friedman said of the process in August.

Here's the deal. After the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, teams have to get waivers on players to be able to trade them. As a result, teams ask for waivers on virtually every player on their roster just so they have flexibility if something comes up.

Rarely does the public find out a player was claimed, because teams normally withdraw them from waivers and both sides go on about their business. There's no public access to information. Even the agents don't know if a claim is made. The only source has to be a front-office member from one of the two teams, which limits public disclosure.

Quite often players, especially ones that contenders might have interest in, do get claimed, because teams either want that player or they want to block him from going to another team. More often than not, the team that asked waivers will withdraw the request instead of losing the player.

Now that's not always the case, as the Padres found out back in 1998 when they tried to block the Braves from adding a left-handed reliever by claiming Randy Myers off waivers from the Blue Jays, who had more than $15 million remaining on his contract, at that time a sizable sum. He also had an arm issue that limited him to 14 1/3 innings the remainder of that season and kept him from taking the mound in the final two years on the deal. The Blue Jays were elated. They were desperately looking for a way to free up payroll.

It's not about money with Puig. His contract calls for $6.5 million in 2017 and $7.5 million in '18, which isn't outlandish. And while the contract allows Puig to file for arbitration if he wants after this season, he would have to void his current guarantee, and if the Dodgers were concerned, he could be released without any obligation.

So if they really want to move Puig, the more logical deal would be to wait until the offseason when 29 teams would have a chance to make their best offer, instead of being tied to one team, which may well not really have interest in Puig but claimed him so he couldn't go to another contender, like the Padres with Myers.

For now, Puig is with Oklahoma City, and the Dodgers could leave him there until their Minor League season ends.

Then a decision would have to be made. Puig would have to be recalled. He is on the 40-man roster. But he could be recalled not to report if the Dodgers wish, or he could return to the roster.

Friedman said for that to happen, Puig would have to understand things have changed, and he had to fit into the framework of a team this time.

The Dodgers do paint a positive picture about how things have gone in Oklahoma City, where Puig hit .348 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his first 19 games.

"The conversations we had with him at the beginning of August really resonated with him,'' said Friedman. "I think there's been a very conscious effort to listen to what was said, and apply it to his daily work. The reports from [Oklahoma City manager Bill] Haselman have been really good.

"I was there a couple weeks ago, and it's obviously a short blip of time, but he's done everything we've asked in this process."

The question that remains, however, is whether Puig has done enough that the Dodgers will feel comfortable bringing him back into their clubhouse for the final days of this season, much less next season and beyond.

Time will tell.