The Cleveland Indians badly need a bat and the Los Angeles Dodgers players are reportedly sick of Yasiel Puig's "attitude." Are the two teams a match made in heaven or is this just some pointless mid-season speculation? A little bit of both, mostly the latter, but here we go...
Don't blame him for the wild and aimless speculation you're about to witness in the following post, but the idea of the Tribe trading for Puig was first planted in my head when I saw Jeff Ellis mention it on Twitter just as a passing thought.
If dodgers real are sick of puig, not sure there is not a bat on the Indians I wouldn't trade for him— jeff ellis (@jeffMLBdraft) July 1, 2015
The more you think about it, the less insane of an idea it becomes -- assuming the Dodgers would ever even consider trading the All-Star slugger.
Puig, if you were not aware, has a personality -- a big one. It's a personality that many fans don't like, that many sports broadcasters don't like and -- according to recent reports – many of his own teammates don't like. Before we even do some preliminary digging into what the Indians could possibly offer for such a covetable bat in the lineup, it’s important to note that the big personality probably would not phase the Indians organization. They were not afraid to take a flier on a "troublesome" Trevor Bauer in 2012, and they have handled him well. While his own fiery personality has cost him some games, it has been by no means a deal breaker.
On that same note, manager Terry Francona is no stranger to managing huge personalities and making them work. He did it with the Boston Red Sox and Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and company, and he is doing it now with the aforementioned Bauer. Moreover, if we are being honest, the idea of Puig's personality dividing a team and costing them games probably is not true. Chemistry comes from winning -- if a team is winning and a Puig is being super not nice to his teammates no one will care.
It also helps that, given his skill level; Puig's contract is insanely affordable. He is currently signed through 2018, and owed a mere $5.5m in 2016, $6.5m in 2017 and $7.5m in 2018.
Now, the important issue: Assuming the Indians have no problem with his personality (and they shouldn't), do they even have a shot at acquiring him? It is going to hurt to think about it, but one possible scenario for a trade could start with Francisco Lindor. If the Dodgers have any kind of doubt about Corey Seager, Lindor's defense could be enough to start the conversation about a trade involving Puig.
One young shortstop whose bat may or may not end up panning out is not going to be enough for a 24-year-old outfielder who posted a 5.3 WAR last year and 4.1 WAR in his 2013 debut season. The Dodgers farm system also has a dearth of outfielders to replace Puig, and eventually Andre Ethier. It just so happens that the Indians are absolutely flooded with such talent right now.
It's all talent is that is somewhere between 2-to-4 years off, but if the Dodgers wanted an outfielder in return they would have their choice of a highly touted outfield prospect such as Bradley Zimmer (the most likely choice), Tyler Naquin or Clint Frazier. Mix and match two or three of those outfielders with Lindor and at the very least the Tribe may have the Dodgers rethinking their hard stance on not trading Puig.
Depending on how much value the Indians front office puts into Michael Brantley's breakout season last year and if it can continue indefinitely, I would not even be too hesitant to throw him in along with or instead of Lindor, depending on the Dodgers demands. Remember that prior to 2014; Brantley was an above-average player at best. Not to harp on Dr. Smooth (who is one of my favorite current Indians players) too much, but if the Dodgers are willing to trade a 24-year-old with a tremendous bat and who is under control for an extra year, I am not about to say no to a Brantley trade.
Trading one or more of Brantley, Lindor and any number of the Indians outfield prospects is a hard pill to swallow if you are a Tribe fan, but the idea of Puig's bat hitting cleanup in the lineup should be enough to make you salivate. He has power, he has speed and he has a rocket arm. I am not saying the Tribe need to make it happen, or that it will even happen at all, but it may not be as crazy of a stretch as you would imagine.
All of this talk could also be for naught if the Dodgers are steadfast on their idea that trading Puig would be "subtraction by addition" at this point. However, if that turns out to be just politically correct front office speak -- watch out.