Jays From the Couch explores the idea of the Toronto Blue Jays trading for Yasiel Puig to fill their outfield vacancy
By now, you know that Jose Bautista was given a qualifying offer and will likely reject it. Assuming he seeks greener pastures, that creates a hole in the Toronto Blue Jays’ outfield. Combine that with Michael Saunders potentially departing without even an offer and Kevin Pillar starts to look awfully lonely out there trying to make another post season run. The Blue Jays need an outfielder.
How they fill that need could go different ways. They could look to spend on the open market…don’t giggle. If they lose both Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, they’ll have some money to spend. But, what might be more likely is the idea of trading for talent. At first glance, this could seem a tall order given that most of the Blue Jays’ prospect talent is in the lower levels of the system. But, with the right pieces, any trade is possible. You just need to find a willing dance partner.
Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They happen to have an outfielder that is likely on the move this winter. It is no secret that the talented Cuban with a flamboyant personality has fallen out of favor with his club. That makes him an interesting candidate to be traded. That makes him a possible candidate to be traded to the Blue Jays. With the relationship so publicly soured, he might be available for less than we would have thought. So, with that in mind, we have to consider whether he would be a good trade target for the Blue Jays.
Before we begin, we have to first decide if the 25 yr old could actually be available. We’re getting mixed messages on that front. If you look to those who cover the Dodgers, they can’t even get on the same page. Over at Dodgers Way, Jason Reed suggests that the Dodgers should, in fact, explore a trade for the embattled outfielder, citing the team’s depth in the outfield. LA has a stable of guys like Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson and Andrew Toles, who everyone fell in love with late in the season. That sounds awfully crowded. Sounds like someone has to go.
Yet, at Forbes.com Howard Cole writes that he believes in the ability for Puig to bounce back and have a big year next season. He believes so much so that he does not want the Dodgers to explore trade scenarios. Cole goes so far as to draw comparisons between Puig and Roberto Clemente. That’s probably unfair, if not inaccurate, praise, but it highlights how high some are on Puig.
So, let’s dig into whether he would be a fit for the Blue Jays. First of all, Puig is a right handed bat, which would certainly go against the search for lineup balance that manager, John Gibbons, would have you believe is happening. You would think that a lefty bat would be more in line with what they’re after. But, GM, Ross Atkins, has already said that he’s after quality bats and won’t get caught up in the side of the plate from which they bat.
So, the question is whether Puig is a quality bat.
|162 Game Avg.||162||652||87||166||31||6||21||72||11||7||57||134||.287||.361||.472||.833|
He has double digit power, even if it has dropped since he burst on the scene in 2013. His career ISO mark of .184, though suggests there is more power there. Could hitting in the Rogers Centre for 81 games provide an extra boost to the HR totals? What about playing a bunch of games in the AL East, in general? You bet it would. That’s not really in question. The power potential is there, certainly enough to replace what the club got from Bautista in 2016.
But, before we get too caught up in that, we should also look at the rest of his game. His 2016 K rate of 20.1% is almost identical to his career mark of 20.6%. So, you know he’s going to collect his share of strike outs. Check this out:
Think about how frustrating it has been watching Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton Jr., and the rest of the lineup for that matter, pile up the strike outs. Do we really want to add a guy with that much trouble with offspeed stuff? How about when he makes contact? He makes MEDIUM contact nearly half the time (48.3%) and HARD contact 31.2% of the time. That might work in the Rogers Centre, but the exit velocity is a tad concerning:
Puig shows flashes of hitting the ball hard, but not with consistency. In fact, since 2013, his HR/FB rate has dropped almost 10%. And, that is what the Blue Jays would want to see: a guy who hits with consistency. If they’re going to bank on a guy with power potential, they may not shy away from it (look at their lineup), but they’d like to avoid going through periods when the power is not there. Puig offers a bit of concern in that area.
To increase the amount of concern, Puig’s walk rate is not encouraging. In 2016, he showed just a bit more patience than Kevin Pillar (4.1%) at 6.5%. That said, he didn’t accumulate that number by swinging at everything outside of the zone, like Pillar. Instead, he swung at 33% of pitches outside of the strike zone, 75% in the zone and nearly 52% overall. He made contact at a rate of 74%, with a swinging strike rate of 13.5%. None of this represents a guy with a patient approach at the plate. That is probably not exactly a great fit in the Blue Jays lineup.
But, if there is one thing that could tempt a club to ride out offensive inconsistency, it is solid defensive play. That is something that Puig brings in spades. In 2016, he played all 3 outfield positions and put up a UZR/150 of 34 in CF, showing off his range. In right field, he was worth 5 DRS. That would certainly be a welcome addition if a team wanted to focus on run prevention. After the adventure that was Jose Bautista in RF this past season, this might be a good idea. I mean, a guy that can do all this:
Or all of this:
That’s gotta be tempting. Perhaps, it could even be tempting enough to try and allow his bat to work its way through the AL East.
Of course, with Yasiel Puig, you have to open up the discussion to whether or not the Blue Jays want to put up with his personality. That is one of the first negative things you’ll hear about Puig: ‘Great talent, poor clubhouse guy’. How much truth to that there is, we’ll never really know, but you can bet that there is lots of it out there. Heck, we’ve heard the same rumblings about Bautista’s attitude for a long time. Maybe a change of scenery could help. Maybe the tutelage of Russell Martin and/or Troy Tulowitzki would do him good. But, in all honesty, the same things people complain about (his Hollywood act) make him an entertaining player. That alone would sell tickets. Whether you like flamboyance in baseball is up to you, but personally, I’d welcome it with open arms. Especially when a guy seemed to really enjoy himself the last time he was in Toronto.
Puig was claimed this summer when the Dodgers put him on waivers. At least one team out there wants him. And why not? There is lots of value there. He’ll make $8.2M next season and $9.2M in 2018. With all of the injuries, demotions, etc he has not had a season where he has played below a value of $8.1M, with values of $30M and more, according to Fangraphs. Again, with his defense and the potential of his bat in the lineup, the Blue Jays could see some real value for their money.
With any trade discussion, you have to talk about what it would cost to obtain a player’s services. This is the part of doing this that I hate. It is so tough to gauge what any team is after in a trade. So, to get some insight into this, I reached out to Howard Cole and asked what the Dodgers need:
Well, if you're limiting me to one spot, I'll take re-signing Justin Turner.
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) November 7, 2016
Re-signing Kenley, RHBs, SP, RP, bench. Just that:)
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) November 7, 2016
While the Blue Jays can’t help with the signing of free agents, could there be a deal where they offer up some pitching help? We know that their current starting rotation has 5 solid options. That is before they even consider whether to stretch out Joe Biagini, or do something else during the winter. Some might balk at shipping off Aaron Sanchez, obviously. But, there are a great number of people who wouldn’t mind sending Marcus Stroman in a deal. I’m not one of those people, for the record.
But, if you look at what the club has, there are a number of relievers that they’ve brought up throughout the year that they could claim are big league ready…they’ve been in the big leagues, after all. As well, there are younger arms like a Conner Greene or a Sean Reid-Foley that are further down in the system, but people drool over. Heck, maybe the Dodgers wouldn’t mind having Justin Smoak on the bench; they’re pockets are deep, right?
If the Blue Jays are going to add talent to their roster- enough to get them over the ALCS hump- they’re going to have to spend one way or another. This offseason is a bit of a mystery as to how it will go for them. A lot will likely be tied up in the aftermath of whatever happens with their Dynamic Duo. But, if the club is looking to upgrade via trade, Yasiel Puig might be an interesting trade option. If you don’t like the deal, and it actually happens, there is a good chance that you’ll be won over and you’ll make #PuigYourFriend.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.