On Tuesday afternoon, Jon Heyman reported that Yasiel Puig had been claimed on waivers by a mystery team. Pursuant to revocable waiver rules, the Dodgers can simply let him go to the other team without incident, work out a trade, or pull him off of waivers and keep him until the off-season. The Dodgers are not desperate to move Puig at this point, nor should they be, but it is interesting to see where this may lead.
It would not be surprising to many if they did let Puig go for next to nothing, considering how disliked he seems to be on all fronts. Molly Knight's excellent book The Best Team Money Can Buy outlines numerous confrontations between Puig and his teammates, including Zack Greinke and Justin Turner. And just last off-season there were rumors that Clayton Kershaw had asked that Puig be traded, which were followed by a report that a former teammate had called him "the worst person I've ever seen in this game."
Despite all of this, last night, a few of us in the IIATMS e-mail chain discussed whether we would be interested in the Yankees acquiring Puig. And, despite his warts, the consensus was a resounding yes. Why is that?
Simple, really - Puig is, when healthy, a dynamic talent. He's 25-years-old, and owed just over $17 MM between 2017 and 2018. He's a strong defensive right-fielder, and he hit .305/.386/.502 (151 OPS+, 153 wRC+) over his first two years, with 10.2 bWAR in 252 games (a 6.5ish bWAR pace over 650 PA). We may be a couple of years removed from Puig being truly great, but amidst all of the controversy and shenanigans he has remained a solid player these last two years.
Between 2015 and 2016, Puig has played 160 games, accumulating 614 PA. In that stretch, he has hit .258/.321/.411 (101 OPS+, 104 wRC+) with 22 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, and 8 SB. Both Baseball-Reference (1.9 WAR) and FanGraphs (2.0 WAR) peg him as a league-average player over that stretch. That may not be ideal production, particularly from a player that has been known to cause headaches, but it is indicative of the talent that he has. Moreover, most of these problems within the clubhouse did not begin until Puig started missing time with injuries, so there may be more to it than him simply being a jackass (though, I wouldn't dismiss those issues entirely).
In my mind, there are only two real issues in this discussion - the likelihood that the Yankees were the team making the claim (which may well be nil), and the logjam in the team's outfield. The former may well make this moot, but there's still a chance that he isn't dealt now, and is more fully shopped in the off-season. If that's the case, we can discuss this more later. As for the latter ... I don't see that as an issue at all.
The Yankees could move Brett Gardner fairly easily, even if it is for a less than ideal return, and recent history has shown us that Jacoby Ellsbury isn't immovable. Puig's addition could represent a move for both now and 2018 (which may be the most realistic year to compete), and everything else could work itself out around that. The talent that he has shown and his relatively low cost makes it worth using assets like Mason Williams, Dustin Fowler, and Ben Gamel elsewhere for the time being. And if Puig could only split the difference between 2013/2014 and 2015/2016, he would still be a middle of the order bat.
I know that this is a team that has long preached professionalism, but they have made moves for less than savory characters before (see: Chapman, Aroldis) when the potential reward was great. Puig's sins are mostly character related, and may be chalked up to immaturity (allegations about him striking his sister turned out to be false) - and if the Yankees do not trust their coaching staff and players to coach-up a talented yet mercurial player, then there is a serious problem.
There may be a great deal of risk associated with Puig, but the rewards could be immense. The Yankees need to, at the very least, see what the Dodgers are asking for in return.