Yasiel Puig, the temperamental Cuban outfielder that has alternately inspired and infuriated Dodgers management, teammates, and fans over the years, has reportedly become disgruntled with his role on the team and is open to be traded this offseason.
Dubbed “The Wild Horse” by legendary former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully for his frenetic, sometimes undisciplined style of play after bursting on the scene as a mega-talented 22-year-old prodigy, Puig overcame criticism from teammates and a demotion to the minors by Dodgers management two years ago to have solid seasons in 2017 and 2018 in which he helped lead Los Angeles to back-to-back National League championships. However, Yahoo! Sports reports that Puig has become disgruntled with being increasingly platooned by manager Dave Roberts.
Puig is set to make in excess of $11 million next season in arbitration, but then is due to enter free agency next offseason. It is likely that Puig wants to play full-time in his final season before hitting the open market, where he could earn a lucrative long-term contract as a five-tool talent in the prime of his career. A solid hitter for both power and average, the speedy Puig is a good defensive player with one of the best throwing arms in baseball.
The Dodgers aggressively platoon many of their players and Roberts often mix-and-matches lineups to take advantage of his roster depth and the many players at his disposal who can play multiple positions. Puig found himself often sitting against left-handed pitching last season, where he should have the platoon advantage, due to the fact that he finished with a.628 OPS against lefties last year. This situation left him often playing against right-handed pitchers, where he finished with a.921 OPS despite his disadvantage as a right-handed hitter.
Puig became increasingly frustrated with this situation, according to the Los Angeles Times. That frustration began to affect his play, and this offseason Puig has lost faith in Dodgers management and is open to being traded to another team.
Former Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward, who retooled Puig’s swing and had a close relationship with the Dodgers star, left this season in a lateral move to become the hitting coach for the Cincinnati Reds. Dubbed “The Puig Whisperer” for his ability to keep the excitable Puig at an even keel, Ward’s departure may have also negatively affected Puig’s relationship with management.
The Dodgers, who may be interested in trading Puig while they can get value for him before he departs as a free agent, has been linked to potential trades already this season. Dodger Blue reports that Puig has been mentioned as a potential trade chip in negotiations to acquire Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber, while Sports Illustrated has reported that the New York Mets are interested in dealing for Puig. Additionally, the Dodgers have been consistently linked as suitors to free agent Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper, which would make Puig expendable as Harper is also a right fielder.
Puig hit.267 with 23 home runs and 63 RBI in only 405 at-bats in 2018, ranking only eighth in wins above replacement (WAR) value among Dodgers position players at 2.7. He is a lifetime.279 hitter with 108 home runs in six seasons, including an.831 OPS.