Mensching: Can Yasiel Puig help the Tigers?
The Dodgers placed former All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig on revocable waivers, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Sunday.
And though you might be tempted to craft some narrative around this fact, coupling it with Puig’s frequent negative press and demotion to Triple A, you shouldn’t. Teams place most players on waivers only to pull them back if no agreement is reached if a team wins the claim.
In all likelihood, Puig’s going to remain in the Los Angeles organization for now, though whether he’s still a Dodger when the team arrives at spring training next year remains to be seen.
Still, it raises the question: Should the Tigers be interested in Puig? Should anyone?
Puig, 25, is the kind of player that makes video editors salivate, whether because he just did something amazingly good or because he just did something incredibly bad. His athletic talent is unquestionable, how he’s used it is open to interpretation.
As a 22-year-old rookie, he batted .319 with a .925 OPS. A year later, he earned an All-Star nod but slipped to a .296 average and .863 OPS.
He was sent to the minors at the end of this July, sitting on a .260 average and lowly .706 OPS.
After putting up more than 10 WAR in his first two seasons, he posted 1.8 combined in 2015 and the first four months of 2016, per Baseball Reference. That’s not exactly the kind of arc you’re looking for.
Initial reports at the trade deadline that Puig threw a fit upon learning he might be traded were proven false, but reports of Puig’s lack of maturity have been commonplace in his major league career.
So on first brush, the temptation is there just to outright reject the idea of Puig playing for the Tigers. They don’t need another underachiever and headache, do they?
The other side of the argument is that Puig is young, the Tigers’ clubhouse is strong and Puig has a club-friendly contract.
Puig is owed about $18.2 million through 2018. He can opt into arbitration eligibility after this year because he’ll have accrued three years of service time, but the result would likely would cost him money. It’s not a big financial risk to see what Puig can do.
Puig is showing he might be ready to get back to hitting like when he was a rookie. As young as he is, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
In Oklahoma City, he had a .375 average entering play Sunday with .420 on-base percentage and .641 slugging for 1.061 OPS.
The Tigers’ outfield has also been a surprising liability this season, combining for 3.4 wins below average, per Baseball Reference. That puts them only ahead of the Orioles in the AL.
The bulk of the problem lies on the shoulders of Justin Upton, as left field is nearly two wins worse than average. But both center field (manned by everyone from Cameron Maybin to Andrew Romine) and right field (thanks both to a disappointing season by J.D. Martinez and even worse ones by his replacements) have been costly for the Tigers, too.
Maybin and Martinez are free agents after 2017, and Upton has the potential to be, as well, should he decide to opt out.
Finally, any clubhouse with the likes of Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera has the potential to bring Puig back into the fold after a change in location. While there’s no guarantees, if Puig wanted to make the most of a second chance he’d have strong leadership around him and one of the best right-handed batters in history to help his cold spells.
As always, the devil is in the details. Could Puig really do much to save this year? And it’s hard to find a starting spot for Puig with Upton and J.D. Martinez in the corners. The price in prospects might not be right, as other teams are likely to be intrigued by the potential Puig possesses, too.
But there’s enough there to wonder what if.
If the opportunity arises, the Tigers should probably go for it and worry about the rest later.
It’s a gamble, but which player isn’t?
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.