The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly shopping Yasiel Puig, as they appear interested in bringing in Jay Bruce to play right field. That makes some sense, as the Dodgers could use some left-handed power in the middle of the lineup — considering that Adrian Gonzalez‘s power stroke hasn’t turned up all season, and the majority of the starting pitchers on the National League playoff contenders are right-handed.
Puig continues to frustrate as he regresses at the plate with an OPS that has dropped for a third straight season, even though offense across the league has increased.
It’s difficult to know exactly what has happened with Puig. Some point to his inability to make adjustments, but that’s a vague term that doesn’t weed out specific issues. He was actually most aggressive at the plate during his first season, which was his best. His patience improved in 2014. But it has gone backward the past two seasons. A big problem in 2016 is that he’s not driving fastballs at all — with an isolated power of .088 — though he’s actually striking out less often against fastballs than in his first three seasons. So that suggests weak contact, which could be related to injuries, bat speed or something else.
The Dodgers might have soured on him, but he’s still an intriguing gamble for another team. After all, he’s still just 25 years old. And he was worth 5.3 WAR as recently as 2014. His contract is reasonable — the remaining salary left from the $7.2 million he’ll make this year, $8.2 million in 2017, $9.2 million in 2018, plus an arbitration year in 2019 — and he’s an above-average defensive right fielder.
Here are five teams that could take a chance on Puig (and rumors had the Dodgers discussing three-way trades, as well, so these wouldn’t have to be straight up with the team listed):
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds reportedly want two or three prospects for Bruce, so while this would make sense as a one-for-one challenge deal, it doesn’t appear the direction the Reds want to go in.
Seattle Mariners: The M’s have been linked to Bruce, as well, so the Mariners are on the prowl for outfield help, as Norichika Aoki hasn’t done the job. They could actually use a right-handed bat more than Bruce’s lefty stick, and Puig’s defense would help an outfield that ranks 28th in the majors in defensive runs saved, while giving them some much-needed youth for next season. Is there a match here? Maybe not, so this would have to be part of a three-way deal, maybe with the Dodgers and Mariners both sending a prospect to the Reds.
Minnesota Twins: The Miguel Sano experiment in right field didn’t work, and Byron Buxton hasn’t shown he can hit. The Twins are not going to give up on Buxton, but they could slot Puig in right field and Max Kepler in left field.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are 28th in the majors in outfield production with a .309 wOBA, better than only the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves. Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings aren’t long-term solutions. We know the Rays like good defense. How about Puig as part of a Jake Odorizzi trade or as part of a Chris Archer blockbuster?
Atlanta Braves: Hey, if they’re willing to bring in Matt Kemp, they have to be willing to consider Puig. Who doesn’t want to re-create the 2014 Dodgers’ outfield controversy?