clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How could the Royals trade for Yasiel Puig?

Would it be worth picking up the talented but controversial young outfielder?

Sometimes, as a writer, when you sit down to put digital ink to digital paper you just know that you are going to catch some sort of hell for what you are about to write. When I wrote that the Royal shouldn't extend Lorenzo Cain I remember catching some hell and knew I would. The same goes for when I wrote three different articles in 2015 about getting rid of Jeremy Guthrie. Each time I knew somebody was going to call me a moron, question my judgement, or say something along the lines of "let the baseball guys handle baseball, dummy." Our own Matthew LaMar here has been called a bevy of insults (including one that might not be an insult - Professor Calculator) due to his writing.

However I don't take these things personally really. It doesn't really have an impact on what I'm going to write next time (unless it's a critique of my writing which I can learn from or a way to correctly use, implement, or analyze data). Call me an idiot? Okay, that's fine. I'll admit I write a lot more dumb things than smart things, but I enjoy it.

So here we go: Should the Royals trade for Yasiel Puig? Maybe we should start by answering the question: who is Yasiel Puig? I always speak about a proverbial rock, and to not know who Yasiel Puig is likely means you've been living under said rock.

Puig was born and raised in Cuba where he was a standout on the baseball field for the Cuban National Team at a young age. He tore up both the domestic Cuban league as well as the 2008 Junior World Championship and other international competitions against teams like USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

Puig then tried to defect to Mexico from Cuba and came up empty four times. On the fifth attempt though he was successful. As with most defection, more shadiness happened and Puig was shopped around to people looking to sell him again to a team. One agent even said that

"Nobody's going to Cuba and bringing out a guy like Yasiel Puig and just handing him over to an agent out of the goodness of their heart."

People are terrible. Anyways, while Puig was a very good young Cuban player, the baseball world was a bit puzzled when the Dodgers gave him a seven-year, $42 million deal. Puig was projected to be a solid player rather than a superstar at the big league level and he hadn't played in more than a year, much like recently signed Red Sox infielder Yoan Moncada. As a foreshadow of things to come, Puig also had disciplinary problems in Cuba and missed games due to suspensions.

Quite often as it happens, the baseball world was generally wrong. Puig destroyed the minor leagues, hitting an OPS over 1.000 in just 63 games before making the big leagues. Less than a year after signing with Los Angeles he made his major league debut, soon becoming a sensation.

2013 22 432 19 42 .319 .391 .534 8.3% 22.5% 0.215 160 4.1
2014 23 640 16 69 .296 .382 .480 10.5% 19.4% 0.185 147 5.3
2015 24 311 11 38 .255 .322 .436 8.4% 21.2% 0.181 111 1.5
Total 1383 46 149 .294 .371 .487 9.3% 20.8% 0.193 143 11.0

He was excellent his rookie year and had one of the best age-23 seasons in the past 15 years. As you can see 2015 didn't go as well. Puig hit for power when he was playing still, but a hamstring injury sidelined him for several separate weeks at a time.

Steamer projections are aware that Puig was injured and they see him bouncing back next year.

2016 25 570 22 76 .285 .359 .489 9.3% 19.3% 0.205 136 4.0

That's good for the 18th best projection by a position player for 2016. There's no doubt that Puig is ultra talented.

What makes him an even more attractive though is his contract.

Year Age Contract
2016 25 $   6,500,000
2017 26 $   6,500,000
2018 27 $   7,500,000
$ 20,500,000

Puig is under control for just three more years, which fits perfectly for the Royals window of contention. When he starts earning the highest annual salary of the contract in 2018, he'll be paid the less than the value of one win. Puig received a signing bonus of $12 million, but that has all already been paid by the Dodgers.

If we were to run a basic valuation with aging curves and the growth of $/WAR for Puig it would look something like this:

Year Age Contract WAR $/WAR Value Surplus
2016 25 $   6,500,000 4.0 $ 8,000,000 $   32,000,000 $ 25,500,000
2017 26 $   6,500,000 4.3 $ 8,400,000 $   35,700,000 $ 29,200,000
2018 27 $   7,500,000 4.5 $ 8,820,000 $   39,690,000 $ 32,190,000
Total - $ 20,500,000 12.75 - $ 107,390,000 $ 86,890,000

Puig could be worth something like $87 million in surplus value over the next few years. It's hard to put that in context, but just understand that that is a tremendous deal for whatever team controls him. The Cubs Kris Bryant is worth around that much in surplus value for 2015 and 2016.

Puig does have the ability to opt into the arbitration-process after 2016. Something he'll likely do if he continues to be as good as he is. That of course raises his salary by a few million dollars each season.

There is of course something we have to talk about with Puig - he has a reputation, and it's not a good one.

In 2014, during the Dodgers' annual trip to Chicago, the team bus stopped downtown to allow rookies undergoing hazing to walk into a pizza place…When the bus was ready to leave, Puig was outside, looking for his luggage inside of the bay underneath the bus. After Puig ignored multiple requests to close the luggage bay, Greinke hopped off the bus, grabbed the suitcase in front of Puig and chucked it onto Michigan Avenue. Puig stepped toward Greinke and was restrained by reliever J.P. Howell.

-Jeff Passan

He's had issues with the law, his teammates, and the coaching staff. Instances include:

Charged with reckless driving for going 110 MPH in a 75 MPH zone

Arrested a second time for speeding on the exact same highway eight months later

Tardiness to games, work ethic reports, laziness

Fighting with teammates

Benchings for laziness

Breaking a light fixture in frustration

A recent altercation with a bouncer at a nightclub

True Blue LA writer Ryan Walton wrote a piece in July about Puig saying that maybe Puig is getting a bad rap than what's really going on now. Certainly all the past events happened, but Ryan points out that there might be things we don't see him working on.

Let me at least say this, on the field there's nothing to not like about Puig when it comes to playing baseball and tools. He's got perhaps the best throwing arm in baseball for a fielder, he has a plus hit tool, above average speed and power, and is an average or better fielder. He truly has five tools and he has demonstrated all of them in the Major Leagues.

Let me also say this, I don't care about what he does off the field, for the most part. Speeding tickets don't bother me, and even if he is a complete jerk to his teammates, as long as he's good on the field that is what matters. Now that doesn't mean he can do whatever off the field. If he beats up a woman, robs a bank, or commits sexual assault...yeah...he's gone. However just being a bad teammate isn't damning.  I just don't buy that teams can't win with bad clubhouse guys on the team.

The Dodgers have made the playoffs several consecutive years with the very same Puig on their team. John Rocker is one of the worst baseball players and perhaps human beings, yet the Braves won 100, 103, and 95 games with him on their team from 1998-2000. The Tigers won 90-100 games several times with Ty Cobb who assaulted people, spouted racist/bigoted remarks, and may or may not have killed a guy. Cobb is in the Hall of Fame by the way. Fans and teammates hated Roger Clemens, Rickey Henderson, and Barry Bonds.

For me, on field talent trumps off field issues (except for extreme things listed above). I can "put up" with a guy being late or teammates not wanting to sit next to him on the team plane if he's putting up 4-win seasons. However that's just my feelings. I know others will think very differently and this is where the introduction of my article comes into play. Some folks will hate the idea of acquiring Puig because of his issues. I think that's a bad reason to not want his talent, but of course to each his/her own.

So what would Puig cost the Royals?

It kind of depends. The Dodgers are reportedly wanting to move Puig but also they are not wanting to move Puig. When I asked Ryan Walton about the general opinion of Puig he told me "the fanbase is divided," and that "the half that want to get rid of him are just tired of hearing the negative stuff and are sick of hearing 'potential."

Dave Cameron ranked Puig 28th overall on his mid-season trade value list stating:

Of course, all those negatives look like small potatoes when Puig is crushing the baseball, but he hasn't done that consistently for a while now, so it's become somewhat easier to pick out the flaws in his game. It's very possible that Puig is in store for a monster second half that will remind everyone who he was one spot behind Bryce Harper a year ago, but right now, his value is down, and the Dodgers would be selling low if they moved him.

That 28th ranking puts him slightly ahead of the Yordano Ventura and Salvador Perez, though the off-season trade value list will be more accurate to use.

There might not be a true area of need for the Dodgers, a team that just won 92 games. The rotation is a bit up in the air at this point as Zack Greinke decides on if he'll return to the Dodgers or go elsewhere. They also need a second baseman as Justin Turner looks to play third base full time with Corey Seager at shortstop. Finally they are looking for bullpen pieces (like every other team in baseball).

Fortunately the Royals can fill one of those needs in Kelvin Herrera. Herrera will bring a few years of team control at a reasonable price (he doesn't have the saves that the arbitration process loves). After this season their current closer Kenley Jansen will be free agency eligible. Meanwhile perhaps the Royals could interest the Dodgers with Danny Duffy whose either going to be a good reliever that's tough against lefties or an enigmatic starter.

The Dodgers seem set at shortstop for now with Corey Seager, although he may eventually move to third. That would probably preclude them from being interested in Raul Mondesi, arguably the Royals best prospect. Top Royals prospects Kyle Zimmer, Miguel Almonte, and Ashe Russell all also could get the conversation started , but would just be pieces of the trade. Josh Staumont represents another intriguing bullpen arm that is at least a year and a half away but could eventually settle into a light-outs reliever.

The Dodgers though are likely looking for major league pieces that can help them win now and for the next several years rather than pieces that can help them later in the future only.

So let's propose:

Kelvin Herrera

Danny Duffy

Miguel Almonte

Nolan Watson

I don't really think that gets the deal done. Puig is really good, and the Royals and Dodgers just aren't a great match really. We need outfield help and they have it, but the Royals also need rotation help and it's not like KC is filled to the brim with great relievers either once you get past Davis/Herrera.

How about this: Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera

Both Puig and Ventura have similar value, but you'd need to pay the Dodgers a premium for swapping a pitcher for a hitter. Is Herrera that premium? Maybe that's too steep and you could get a better combination package for Herrera alone with Ventura and a package for Puig. Puig would likely leave the Royals along with everybody else after the Great Mass Exodus of 2017/2018 when virtually the entire Royals team is eligible for free agency. The Royals would likely extend him a qualifying offer. They could also trade Puig after 2017, when the majority of the core is free agent eligible, with a year of control left for the acquiring club. A 4-win player, even one heading for free agency, can net a nice haul. Jason Heyward is a bit better than Puig but he brought back (with the inclusion of Jordan Walden) promising pitcher Shelby Miller and enigmatic Tyrell Jenkins (a former first rounder and top 100 prospect).

I would love to have Puig playing in Royals blue. I'd imagine that all 29 other teams in baseball would love to have him too. That makes any trade scenario to Kansas City quite unlikely. What do you think? Would you take the chance on Yasiel Puig?