According to a report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to "give away"outfielder Yasiel Puig, but so far there are no takers. The 25-year-old, who is under contract through 2018, is currently playing in Triple-A, having been demoted due to what can be described as attitude issues.
Puig has been a below-average hitter this season, with a .260/.320/.386 slash in 81 games for the Dodgers, but the talent is clearly there. Prior to an injury-shortened 2015 campaign, Puig looked like an All-Star, slashing .296/.382/.480 with 16 home runs for the Dodgers in 2014. But now, two seasons and some bat flipping later, the Dodgers look like they are desperately trying to ship him off:
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."
A toxic player who has talent but no one else wants to deal with? The Cleveland Indians should take a shot.
The numbers work out; Puig would help this team immensely
Before even getting into the headcase-ness (or lack thereof) of Puig, just looking at the numbers, it would make a tremendous amount of sense for the Indians to pursue Puig.
Michael Brantley had surgery, we know he is not coming back to play in left field this season. Abraham Almonte is getting a lot of playing time in left field now, but he will not be on the postseason roster -- and he is not very good, to begin with. Puig has only played 10 innings in left field in his career (in 2013), but in every other outfield position, he is a solid defender. He has saved 17 runs on defense in center field in a little over 2,800 innings, and he has 15 DRS in just under 3,330 innings.
Sure, Puig's bat has been mediocre, at best, this season, but both ZiPS and Steamer project him coming alive in whatever remaining games he plays. The former projects a .272/.341/.447 slash with four home runs, while the latter has him slashing .285/.353/.480 -- a 126 wRC+. Puig seems like the perfect "change of scenery" type of guy at this point. It's clear there is some kind of rift between him and the Dodgers front office. That same rift would not likely exist in Cleveland.
Even more importantly, the Indians are a perfect fit for Puig
If you had to pick one manager to correctly deal with Puig's "headcase," Terry Francona would have to be on your short list. All the Tribe skipper has done in his career is manage big personalities, from Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, during his time in Boston, or even players in Cleveland like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, who was called a "headcase" several times along the way.
The Indians also have great Spanish-speaking leaders in the clubhouse that would be likely to understand Puig's issues. Puig was extremely close to Juan Uribe when the two were in Los Angeles together, and Uribe left a huge impact on the Indians locker room, especially Jose Ramirez, even if he did not provide much on the field.
Friendships are not transitive, of course, but the Indians have enough leaders, plus the influence of Terry Francona, that I cannot imagine one "headcase" tearing the team apart to the point that his bat is no longer welcome. And if that is the case, maybe this team isn't as good as we think it is.
I can understand that showing up late to practice is a real issue, but most of the mentions of Puig being a "headcase" revolve around him daring to have a personality, such as bat-flipping and having the audacity to have fun with his new Triple-A teammates and posting it on Snapchat. The horror!
I don't buy into the idea that he would tear apart the Indians one bit.
But how free is free?
This all comes down to asking price, of course. The Dodgers are not stupid -- they know Puig is good. They know they could get some value out of him, or at least they could have before this debacle. If the Dodgers truly are "giving him away," there is no reason the Indians should be not be jumping all over it if "giving him away" means a couple lower-end prospects. I doubt that's the case, though, but I would still be willing to give up quite a bit for Puig. Maybe not a package like when I first wanted the Indians to after him (when his value was arguably at its peak), but something big, nonetheless.
If the Indians really are open to taking on risks to win a championship -- like the risk of dealing away four top prospects for a relief pitcher -- then they should be willing to buy on a potential All-Star batter at his absolute lowest.