Update, 8:23pm PST: Jon Heyman says the deal is $42m over 7 years and that the deal “wasn’t even Puig’s highest offer”. Danny Knobler says “you see him on the right day, he could be Vladimir Guerrero“, but also that “the Dodgers never saw him play in an actual game.”
According to an industry source, the Dodgers have agreed to a multiyear deal worth more than $40 million with 21-year-old international prospect Yasiel Puig, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder from Cuba.
A top prospect in the island’s premier league, the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional), Puig hit .276 with five home runs during his first campaign with Cienfuegos in 2008-09 and had a breakout year the next season, hitting .330 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. He did not play for Cienfuegos during the 2011-12 seasons because he was being disciplined for attempting to defect.
The Dodgers haven’t confirmed yet, but if it goes through before Monday (when the new international budgetary rules take effect) it will be the largest signing of a Cuban player ever.
This leads to the obvious question: who the hell is Yasiel Puig? I’ve heard the name before but know little about him, and I’m guessing you don’t either. Fortunately, there’s a few scouting reports floating around…
JP Breen, FanGraphs, June 27, 2012:
Now, statistics from the Cuban Serie Nacional should obviously be taken with a grain of salt. The level of competition is perhaps not even comparable to what Puig would potentially see in Triple-A, but legitimate similarities exist between the numbers Yoenis Cespedes compiled in 2010-2011 and what Puig racked up in the same year.
Player 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG BB SO Yasiel Puig 19 6 17 .330 .430 .581 49 39 Yoenis Cespedes 17 1 33 .333 .424 .667 49 40
The obvious difference is the significantly higher home run total from Cespedes. It’s that level of power that has allowed Cespedes to transition directly to the major leagues and post a .222 ISO as a 26-year-old without any experience in the United States.
The remainder of the numbers — the on-base percentage, strikeout-to-walk ratio, etc. — are comparable. Even the doubles are comparable. Puig reportedly has above-average speed and was once considered the “fastest player in Cuban baseball” before defecting, so it’s not overly surprising that Puig would collect more triples than Cespedes.
Puig, of course, is five years younger than Cespedes. On the other hand, Ben Badler of Baseball America is far less enthusiastic, saying that the scouting reports on Puig have been “extremely underwhelming”, and going so far as to tweet that Puig “would not be a top-10 guy in a normal system.”
For those who haven’t seem him, here’s an undated highlight reel on YouTube…
(How sweet/lame/sweet are those green pants? It’s like when the Hartford Whalers tried to wear Cooperalls back in the day.)
So what we have here is a 21-year-old from a closed country who has barely played in about two years and whom none of us had ever even heard of a week ago. That being the case, any attempt to judge this signing seems foolish; we just don’t have the information to do so properly. I’ll admit that part of me wonders why he’s getting more than Cespedes or Jorge Soler when the brief information I can find on him doesn’t seem to indicate he’s clearly as good as they’re expected to be. To commit a record-setting price to a player that someone as respected as Badler is so down on, well, it’s definitely jarring.
On the other hand, the Dodger spending record in international scouting recently has been beyond shameful for a one-proud organization, and the sheer shock of seeing them actually come up with a big ticket international prospect is mindblowing considering that it was barely a year ago that we were playing the bi-weekly game of “will Frank McCourt default on payroll?” (And no, everyone who keeps making the same joke, he’s not going to be in the lineup tonight. Considering his age and his missed playing time, he’s probably two years away at a minimum.)
My gut feeling is that it’s probably too much money. But it’s also just money, something the new regime seems to have endless reserves of. For now, for the statement this makes alone, I’m cautiously pleased.