The Dodgers are “still trying to move” outfielder Yasiel Puig, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Puig’s name has popped up in trade rumors lately — most recently surfacing in rumors involving Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.
Puig, as Heyman points out, has seen his overall offensive output decline in each of his four Major League seasons. Now 25 years of age, Puig burst onto the scene in 2013 at the age of 22 with a scintillating .319/.391/.534 slash in 104 games. That was good for an OPS+ of 159, but his OPS+ dipped to 145 in 2014, 110 in 2015 and just 89 in 2016, marking the first season of his career in which he’s actually been a below-average contributor. Puig still draws positive marks from defensive metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved, but he no longer looks like the bargain he did during the first two seasons of his career.
Signed to a seven-year, $42MM contract out of Cuba prior to the 2012 season, Puig’s deal allows him to opt into arbitration upon accruing three years of Major League service, which he’s done this year. He’s slated to earn $6.5MM in 2017 and $7.5MM in 2018, but he could stand to earn more via the arbitration process, so he could very well go that route. The three remaining years on Puig’s deal could make him an appealing option for both contenders and rebuilding clubs, although the fact that those three years come at an escalating salary makes it more difficult to ask a team to surrender high-quality talent in return.
All that being said, it remains largely unknown at this point whether there’s significant interest on the market in a player who has had his ups and downs both on and off the field. Heyman notes on Twitter that the Mets, who are among the clubs rumored to be looking at bats, don’t have any interest in Puig. While other contending organizations may have different views of his potential to contribute in 2016 — it’s always tough to know a given team’s front office sees in a player — we certainly haven’t heard rumors of any particular pursuer.
The smart money, perhaps, is on a club that doesn’t have an immediate need for production taking a chance on Puig returning to his established ceiling. Doing so probably means taking on at least some of the remaining financial commitments, which is certainly a deterrent, but it’s possible to imagine a higher-dollar veteran being moved to facilitate a deal. That, presumably, was part of the general thrust of the chatter relating to Bruce. It’s never wise to rule out the creative machinations of the L.A. front office, which has engineered various complicated scenarios in recent years. Unless and until we learn of interest from another team, though, it’s tough to guess at what kind of arrangement might be concocted to lead to a trade of the enigmatic Puig.