24 Hours of Yasiel Puig

One day ago, barely any of us had heard the name “Yasiel Puig”. In the 24 hours since the shocking news broke that the Dodgers had signed him to a seven year, $42m contract, reaction has been… well, let’s say all over the place. A few thoughts from around baseball as people scramble to try to figure out what to make of this…

Keith Law is not a fan, though he’s notoriously pessimistic…

Based on what I’ve heard about Puig, this is a bizarre overreaction to the upcoming international spending cap, and a huge bet that, despite a stiff swing and less athletic body than Soler, Puig’s bat is good enough to justify an investment of this size. I’ve also heard that Puig was badly out of shape in his recent workouts in Mexico, and that his throwing arm is not as strong since it was last seen in games. And unlike Soler or Cespedes, Puig barely has played in games outside of Cuba, so major league scouts have not had much of an opportunity to evaluate him properly.

Law also says that the Dodgers were able to “blow away the competition with an outrageous offer”, but Jon Heyman says otherwise…

Baseball America‘s Ben Badler isn’t quite on board either…

Those who have seen Puig seem lukewarm on his talent. He has good bat speed and generates plus raw power, but scouts have expressed concerns about his hitting approach. Some scouts say they have gotten some good running times on him before and he’s shown more athleticism in the past, but others haven’t seen him run well. He projects as a corner outfielder and has drawn question marks from scouts about his defensive instincts. He is an interesting prospect with raw talent, but for several teams, he wouldn’t have even been a first-round pick if he were in the draft.

At Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein touches on the mass uncertainty around Puig…

His workout in Mexico was really just an extended batting practice, as he never ran and barely did anything in the outfield. His previous attempts to defect left him on the sidelines in last season’s Serie National in Cuba, so overall, he just hasn’t been seen that much. Puig has plus-plus raw power, but reviews on every other tool vary wildly for the 21-year-old. Some think he has speed, some think he’s merely an average runner, and there are definite concerns about the stiffness of his swing and a history of swing-and-miss. No matter what exactly he is, talk of this as a desperation move to help a woeful Dodgers offense seems more than a bit foolhardy, and the Dodgers have to get him into the country first, and they’ll be lucky to get six weeks of minor league time out of someone who has barely played the game in the past 12 months.

Yahoo’s Tim Brown has good information on the scouting the Dodgers did prior to signing Puig…

After years of marginal involvement in the Latin American market, the Dodgers were aggressive in their pursuit of Puig. Assistant general manager Logan White spent several days in Mexico City, where he not only scouted Puig, but took him to dinner. In reviewing videos of Puig and watching his recent batting practice, the Dodgers see him as a player with five tools, all of which could translate in the major leagues.

The agent, Torres, said of Puig, “He’s a very nice kid. Very friendly. Very smart. Great smile. He told me, ‘I don’t care about the money. I want to play.’ ”

To that end, Torres said, Puig chose the Dodgers in spite of at least one better offer.

“He was very confident with the Dodgers,” he said. “More important, the Dodgers had everything lined up.”

Buster Olney has this incredibly down note from an unnamed scout…

Grant Brisbee points out that no matter what your evaluation is of Puig, it’s really the dollar amount that is the most jarring…

But Puig lacks the overwhelming scouting report that Cespedes and Jorge Soler had, it would seem. At least, there isn’t the same consensus. Still, if you asked 30 scouting directors if they’d like Puig in their system, I’d wager that they’d all answer in the affirmative. It’s just the money that’s the surprise.

Kevin Kaduk notes that the impending July 2 deadline which will massively restrict international spending played a huge rule here…

Like the Cubs’ signing of fellow Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler earlier this month, the Dodgers’ reason for showing Puig the money seem obvious. With a cap for international spending nearing its implementation, the new Dodgers ownership group had one last chance to flex its financial muscle in that arena. For better or worse, they took it.

With more than $200 million committed to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier over the next decade, it’s a little curious that they’d dump even more money into the outfield pool. But I’d say this is a great sign for Dodgers fans as long as the signing doesn’t affect any offseason free-agent additions to the team’s rotation (*cough*Cole Hamels*cough*) or an infield that could use a big bat. This Dodgers ownership group has a lot of money and they’re not afraid to spend it. As our own Tim Brown writes, it’s a clear signal the Dodgers want to return to the days of acting like a large-market franchise.

So, as you can expect from a 21-year-old who has been suspended for a year while defecting from a Communist nation, reactions are all over the place. You can’t put any stock into Cuban stats, and there’s very little in the way of scouting information, so putting together an informed opinion is almost impossible.

In the absence of reliable information, I’ll put these points out there:

  1. I think that Logan White knows more about baseball than I do, especially about a player he’s met in person who I had never heard of a week ago.
  2. I think that a lot of this hinges on the truth between Law’s belief that the Dodgers far outbid everyone and Heyman’s assertion that the Dodgers didn’t even have the largest offer. If other teams had a similar viewpoint of Puig’s talent and were willing to pay as much or more, that makes me feel a lot better than if the Dodgers outbid everyone by millions. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the truth there.
  3. I think that while there seems to be a sizable chance that the Dodgers never see a penny of return on this $42m, I’d rather take a chance on a young player with the potential to be a long-time performer than throwing money away on the broken-down likes of Juan Uribe, Jason Schmidt, & Andruw Jones any day.
  4. I think that if you hate this deal and think that it was beyond foolish for the team to guarantee such a large amount of money to a player we know almost nothing about, that’s a perfectly defensible position…
  5. …except that you can’t claim that this money would have been better spent on a Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke or Josh Hamilton this offseason, because we have absolutely no indication that the Puig deal takes the Dodgers out of any other potential moves. In fact, according to Stan Kasten’s recent comments, I’d say quite the opposite.
  6. I think we can’t underestimate just how much the new collective bargaining agreement played into this, as big-market teams knew that they’d never again be able to spend big for players like Puig. My guess is that if Puig had been a free agent in any year before this year, he wouldn’t have hit such a big jackpot. The dollar figure to me seems to be as much about timing as talent.
  7. I hope Puig is worth the money. I know there’s a huge chance he’s not. Either way, I’m just happy to see this team moving past the McCourt years and acting like the big player they’re supposed to be.
0 comments