Who is this guy? I thought, only three weeks ago, that Yasiel Puig had played his last game in an LA Dodgers’ uniform. But, necessity triumphed, and the extreme need for a healthy right-hand-hitting outfielder took precedence over any lurking animosity that management might have been harboring, and Puig was brought back. And what a few days he’s had! Well, sort of.
While Puig has been magnificent in the outfield, with a succession of great defensive plays including more of the mind-boggling throws that have so far been the apogee of his career,
while his speed and base-running have been excellent, and while he has hit some big home runs, including the three-run first-inning home run off of the Giants’ Matt Moore last night, overall he really has not hit much since his return from the oblivion of Oklahoma City. In his 14 September games since his return, he’s batted only .206, with a paltry seven hits in 34 at bats, but he’s made headlines primarily due to his defense and due to the fact that of his seven hits, four have been home runs and he’’s driven in nine runs over that time.
One would also think that the Dodgers’ current hot streak is in some part due to Puig, but the fact is that since his return, the Dodgers are 8-6 in the games he’s played in, and 4-1 in the games where he’s sat on the bench.
Even with his late season surge, Puig’s 2016 stats are virtually identical to last year, with the same number of home runs, 11, five more RBI, 43 to 38, and a one-point lower batting average, .254 to .255, in 29 more at bats this year over last. These numbers fail miserably in comparison to his 2013 and 2014 figures, where he showed more power as he hit .319 and .296, respectively.
So, while Puig may or may not be a factor the rest of this season, do the Dodgers stay with him and make him a part of their 2017 plans, or do they cut their ties with the enigmatic outfielder? Supposedly they turned down a trade with Milwaukee where they could have obtained one of the game’s premier power hitters and run producers, Ryan Braun. Braun at 31 is six years older than Puig, but when healthy is a dynamic hitter and an underrated outfielder who has regularly led the league in or been in the top three in putouts, assist, and range factor . And, surprise, surprise, he is a far better base runner and base stealer than Puig. Puig has stolen five bases this season and his career high is 11. Braun has stolen 15 in 18 attempts this year, stole 24 last season, has a career hight of 33 and twice has been a 30-30 player, including in 2012 when he hit 41 home runs with 30 stolen bases.
Braun, of course, has served a PED suspension and hie early career stats are suspect due to performance enhancing drug use, and in recent years he’s battled various injuries and has this season missed occasional games totaling over 20. But he is clear now and producing
almost at his earlier level, with this year 30 home runs, 88 RBI and a .308 average, four points above his career .304. And he is signed through 2021, with an average salary over the intervening years of about $20 Million per year.
In recent trades, the Dodgers have pretty well depleted what was a deep pool of solid minor league talent, especially among pitching. But, if in order to pull off a Puig for Braun trade this offseason, giving up another young pitcher, other than Julio Urias or Jose De Leon, would seem to be a deal the Dodgers would have to make.