This time next year, Yasiel Puig will be a free agent.
That, combined with his projected salary of more than $11 million for the upcoming season, has resulted in industry-wide speculation the Dodgers will finally trade their temperamental outfielder this offseason, perhaps next week at baseball’s winter meetings in Las Vegas.
This makes a certain degree of sense. Puig remains an inconsistent producer and the team’s surplus of outfielders makes him expendable.
Except here’s something that makes even more sense: Holding on to him.
Maybe there is a trade to be made. Maybe Andrew Friedman can trick someone into sending the Dodgers a front-line pitcher such as Corey Kluber for a package that includes Puig.
However, considering recent history, a level of optimism bordering on delusion is required to believe that such a deal exists. The Dodgers made several attempts over the years to unload Puig and couldn’t find a taker. And that was when he had a relatively modest salary.
Even if the Dodgers were to agree to cover some of Puig’s salary, the return for him in a trade would likely be minimal. What’s clear is the Dodgers won’t deal him for the sake of dumping his salary. If that were the objective, the Dodgers would not have tendered him a contract, something they could have done with no penalty because of Puig’s status as an arbitration-eligible player.
So if the Dodgers are demanding quality players in exchange for Puig but are unlikely to receive them, they might as well operate as if he will be back in right field.
But the Dodgers would be asking for trouble if they do nothing beyond leaving Puig’s name on their roster.
A .209 hitter this year against left-handed pitchers, Puig was disgruntled by how he was limited to playing against right-handers, according to people familiar with his thinking who spoke under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject. The frustration was said to affect his play, and Puig is now described as distrustful of management and open to playing for another team.