Two years ago, as a rookie, Yasiel Puig established himself as one of the most-talented outfielders in baseball. And Puig continues to put up good numbers today and make outstanding defensive plays. But now, considering rumors that his L.A. Dodgers teammates can’t stand him, the question must be asked: would L.A. win more without him?
It seems a silly question, given that the Dodgers are once again having a strong season, sitting first in the NL West with a 46-36 record – four games ahead of second-place San Francisco. But there’s always room for improvement, and some have openly questioned if this improvement would include trading Puig.
“We’ve talked about this,” one Dodgers player said. “At this point, it would be addition by subtraction.”
Those in and around the Dodgers clubhouse know of Puig’s ability to anger teammates. And a recent book called “The Best Team Money can Buy,” by Molly Knight, explores some of the many things that Puig has done to get on other players’ nerves.
For starters, the 24-year-old has shown a general sense of entitlement, causing him to show up late to practices, not work hard in the weight room, and take batting practice lightly. There was an incident in spring training, where a member of Puig’s entourage flew with the team on a flight that typically only includes wives and girlfriends.
Then there was the time, during a road trip in Chicago, when the bus was stopped so players could get pizza. When it was time to go, Puig had a luggage bay opened and wouldn’t close it while looking for his bag, despite multiple requests for him to do so. This prompted pitcher Zack Greinke to throw a suitcase in front of Puig off the bus, with the latter having to be restrained afterward.
Despite everything going on, it looks like Dodgers management is firmly behind the outfielder. Not only is Puig hitting .289/.382/.465 and making great plays in the outfield, but he’s also pretty cheap. This has put L.A. management in a tough place, where they’re constantly trying to avoid giving Puig too much preferential treatment, versus making sure that he’s happy. For instance, they have a private security detail on Puig because he’s been threatened by the Mexican drug cartel that smuggled him from Cuba to Mexico.
Another Dodgers player was asked about whether trading Puig would help the team out, to which he replied, “That’s the biggest Catch-22. He’s a top three or four talent in baseball.”
At just 24 and already with two and a half solid seasons under his belt, the potential for Puig is, as the unnamed player said, to be a top three or four talent. And since he’s signed through 2018, the Dodgers would love to keep him aboard as they look to make the postseason yet again.
On paper, the team is way better with him on the field, and they have the opportunity to win a championship or two in the coming years. But if the situation with Puig and the multiple annoyances that he’s caused goes any deeper, then it’s tough to say if L.A. can justify keeping the most-unpopular player on the team.