In what’s becoming an annual tradition at Let’s Go Tribe, I’m here to once again advocate for the Cleveland Indians to acquire one of the best, most fun outfielders in baseball: Yasiel Puig.
You may have noticed recently that more Indians fans are warming to the ideal, and it’s even bubbling to the point where it sounds like a rumor. To this point, it’s not a real rumor. It was just an idea by Mike Petriello when he was predicting 20 trades for MLB.com. Nothing wrong with that, it’s not like he’s running to Twitter with “news” that two teams are talking about a trade a week before the deadline.
My only question is ... why isn’t it a rumor? Puig no longer has the extra value of multiple years of control attached to him, one of the reasons the Indians might have been hesitant to acquire him in the past. The 28-year-old is a free agent after this season, and he’s having a slightly above-average season at the plate. Nothing compared to the 123 wRC+ season he put up last year, and he’s not hitting the ball nearly as hard as he used to. But he can be a serviceable outfielder just about anywhere, and he’d be one of Cleveland’s best outfielders if/when Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen come back down to earth.
Maybe most importantly to the Indians front office ... he’d be cheap. Are the Indians really not even looking into this?
Half-year rentals aren’t worth as much as they used to be with every time hoarding control like they’re guaranteed playoff wins, and Puig has had injury concerns this season to boot. It’s similar in a way to the deal that the Indians made last season when they acquired Josh Donaldson. The biggest difference there is that Donaldson was acquired on Aug. 31 at the now defunct waiver wire deadline. With new rules in place that effectively eliminate the “second” trade deadline, the Indians have until next Wednesday to make their final decision or the door closes on trade possibilities.
Puig’s ceiling is not nearly as high as a fully operational Josh Donaldson’s was, but his floor isn’t nearly as low, either. Donaldson barely played last season before missing most of the year with calf issues. It severely limited what the Blue Jays could ask in return for their former MVP. Puig has been mostly healthy this season and slashing .260/.310/.492 with 22 home runs for the Reds. He’s not owed a whole lot either, at just $9.7 million.
To get a month and the hope of a deep playoff run out of Donaldson, the Indians had to give up Julian Merryweather, a then-26-year-old pitcher who had never cracked the major league roster and was struggling in Triple-A. Puig is going to be around for an extra month, will likely have more suitors, and doesn’t have the stigma of coming off a massive injury with no real measuring stick for how he will perform. So he’s probably going to take more than a Merryweather equivalent, but it’s not going to drain the farm system by any means.
If there any concerns with Puig, it’s his clubhouse presence. When he left the Dodgers, there were reports that he was a major headache (although that didn’t stop the Dodgers from reaching the World Series twice, go figure), and one of the leading reasons they shipped him off to the Reds. I’m about as outside as an outsider can be, but the Indians clubhouse looks pretty solid from all the way out here. Remember Leonys Martin slacking on a ball and Francisco Lindor immediately getting in his face in the dugout afterwards? This team has an established leader who will deal with Puig if things go south, don’t you worry about that.
Even with the legitimate emergence of Oscar Mercado, the Indians outfield could use a Yasiel Puig. There doesn’t appear to be any rumblings of such a trade happening yet, but there was that time I half-jokingly suggested that the Indians might be the Bryce Harper mystery team in the offseason and through one gigantic game of telephone, someone asked Mandy Bell about it thinking it was a real, solid rumor. Maybe it’ll happen again, and maybe someone in the front office will realize what a good idea this is.
Get Puig to Cle.