Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has always been surrounded by popularity and controversy. Even by his standards, though, the heat was turned up recently when former MLB outfielder and coach Andy Van Slyke implied that Clayton Kershaw had requested that Puig be traded out of Los Angeles.
Puig has developed the reputation for being immature, selfish, and a distraction in the clubhouse. It is also concerning that his production has gone down every season since entering the MLB scene as a young, flashy rookie in 2013. In his first 104 games played, Puig hit 19 home runs and hit .319. Puig followed that up with a lesser 2014 season, hitting .296 with 16 homers and 69 RBIs. Despite the numbers, Puig was selected to be an All-Star.
The 2015 season was no better than 2014. The combination of off-field issues and declining production has put Puig on the trade market in a serious way. A fresh start will be invigorating for Puig and the fan popularity will follow him to just about any city. But can any manager control Puig on and off the field like Don Mattingly failed to do?
One manager who is all business is Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles will be potentially losing slugger Chris Davis this offseason and will be in need of a power bat. Puig’s production would be sure to increase in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. The corner outfield is a need for the Orioles since losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency last year.
Having dealt with many personalities managing the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, and now Orioles, Showalter has a successful track record and knows how to win with what is given to him. The Orioles were a young and inexperienced team when Showalter took over in 2010. They finished the 2010 season 34-23 after his arrival. Following the resurgence brought by the managerial change in Baltimore, the Orioles made the playoffs in 2012 and 2014, winning 93 and 96 games, respectively. In 2014 Showalter was named the American League Manager of the Year. Unlike other winners of this award, Showalter maintained his position and the Orioles finished at .500 in 2015 despite losing key contributors from the 2014 team.
This is the organizational foundation that Puig would need to start a successful union with a new ballclub. Puig would be playing in smaller AL ballparks, allowing his power and arm strength to shine. If injuries continue to persist, the designated hitter will be a way that Puig can stay productive while preventing more wear and tear.
The Orioles are in the position to add payroll and match up well with the Dodgers. Puig will make $6 million per season through 2018. The Dodgers outfield is crowded and they have some depth players to spare while attempting to re-sign Cy Young runner up Zack Greinke. The Dodgers are far from poor, but subtracting unnecessary players makes sense, and the minor league system could use some chips as well.
The Dodgers could throw in Alex Guerrero, who was forced to play off the bench all last season. Guerrero is capable of playing third base and left field and hit 11 home runs in part-time duty. He makes $7 million per year through 2017 and could fill in at left field, DH, or spell Manny Machado occasionally at third.
The Orioles have organizational depth at the pitching position and could help the Dodgers in that area. The Dodgers have question marks in the back of the rotation and the bullpen. Brad Brach could step right into the Dodgers bullpen and play a pivotal role. He spent time in the National League West with the Padres and is familiar with the division. Brach is due to make $1 million this upcoming season.
In addition, the Orioles would have to include top right-handed pitching prospect Hunter Harvey. Harvey has had some injury issues but will be healthy for the 2016 season. He is ranked 68th in the Baseball America top 100 prospects list and has three quality pitches.
While the Dodgers have depth, they would lose Guerrero in this trade and have also let Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Chase Utley walk via free agency. The Orioles could throw in utility infielder Ryan Flaherty to lock in the depth behind Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Kiké Hernandez. Flaherty will make close to $1.5 million this season and would help offset some of the money headed to Baltimore.
Finally, the Orioles could counter one Cuban outfielder for another in Henry Urrutia. Urrutia is 27 years old and has shown signs of plus power, but has also run into injury issues. Urrutia should be able to contribute to the major league roster this season and the ceiling is high for this talented outfielder.
Puig would be the greatest beneficiary in this deal, but both teams gain a lot of assets. Each player brings a unique risk to the table, but is worth the risk in both situations. The Dodgers will be contending for another division title, and this deal will shore up some weaknesses both on and off the field. The Orioles will be able to re-tool the team, while staying competitive in a difficult division.