Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi was non-committal when asked about Yasiel Puig’s future with the organization, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Puig was just optioned to Triple-A, with Zaidi characterizing the move as a reflection of “the fact that we were able to get a right fielder [Josh Reddick] that we believe is an upgrade for this team right now,” leading to “a little bit of a domino effect.”
But when asked whether the talented 25-year-old would play at the big league level again for the Dodgers, Zaidi demurred. “I don’t want to handicap that situation,” he said. “It certainly is a possibility. Beyond that, it’s just speculation.” While that statement certainly doesn’t suggest anything directly, it isn’t perhaps the standard front-office line for an established major leaguer who has been demoted but remains under contract for the foreseeable future.
The GM discussed several on-field improvements that Puig could work towards in the minors, but also didn’t suggest that the decision was purely related to performance. While it isn’t fair to say that the club ran out of patience with Puig, Zaidi said, there was clearly more at work here. Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged that he has had to expend added attention to keeping Puig on task, explaining that the outfielder has room to grow and needs to consistently put in the needed work at the major league level.
Puig entered the league with a big splash at just 22 years of age and continued to put up top-line offensive numbers in 2014. He started to turn down the following year, but was still an above-average hitter, and the fall-off has gotten worse thus far in 2016. Over his 303 plate appearances this year, Puig owns a meager .260/.320/.386 slash. While he has been significantly better since returning from the DL in late June, and still grades well in the outfield, the overall package is decidedly less appealing than it once was. There are also at least some long-term injury questions given Puig’s frequent hamstring issues.
Los Angeles is said to be open to dealing Puig, whose immense talent will undoubtedly draw interest — though it seems fair to say that any dealing is more likely to occur over the winter. It will certainly be interesting to see how the market values Puig if and when he is auctioned. His contract situation still rates as a positive, but it’s no longer the screaming value it once was. He’s set to earn at least $14MM over the next two years, and can be controlled for one more. Puig also has the right to opt into arbitration, though at this point that may not be the financially advisable route given his rough platform season.