If Yasiel Puig was left-handed and Canadian, he’d probably get as much ink in these parts as Joey Votto does.
OK, maybe not *quite* that much. Because, in addition to being a right-handed hitting Cuban, Puig is… well… Puig. A prodigious talent badly dried up and exiled from L.A., still under contract for two full seasons after this one. And now, today, potentially property of another big league club.
sources: puig has been claimed on waivers. dodgers can try to work out a deal with that team, if they can.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 30, 2016
Would the Dodgers simply walk away from Puig, the way the Jays did many years ago from Alex Rios? Already folks like Ken Rosenthal and Los Angeles Times reporter Andy McCullough are saying it’s unlikely — that the Dodgers would be better to wait until the off-season, at which point they’ll be able to work out the best deal possible among a number of suitors, rather than with just one. But maybe!
And if there is interest in Puig, is it even likely that the Jays would be the ones who’ve claimed him? Not really! The way waivers work in MLB is teams in the same league as the club the player is on get first priority, starting whichever one has the worst record. If no NL team claimed him, priority then switches to the American League, again from worst to first by record. So as the team with the second best record in the AL, the Blue Jays would need just about everybody to pass on Puig for any claim they might have made to be relevant.
This may make you wonder, so why the hell are we talking about this, then? Well, mostly because Puig has to be an intriguing name for a club like the Blue Jays who will see two of their everyday outfielders, Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, hit free agency this winter. Even with all the baggage Puig brings — whatever that may be — he’s still a guy who will make just $6.5- and $7.5-million over the next two seasons; peanuts for somebody who was worth four wins in 104 games in 2013 and five-and-a-half over 148 in 2014.
Of course, in 2015 and 2016 he’s been nothing close to that valuable. His wRC+ over four big league seasons has gone from 160 to 147 to 112 to just 95 this year, before he found himself sent down to triple-A. He wasn’t showing the same plate discipline this year as in seasons past, nor anything close to his previous power. Maybe even more troubling, his hard contact rate has gone from 37.5% to 34.6% to 31.3% to 29.7% over those same four years.
Scary stuff if you’re paying more than “basically nothing” for the guy, I think, or guaranteeing him playing time in the big leagues. But there’s still a lot of talent to dream on, and he won’t turn 26 until December. So… it’s a name people have been paying a little bit of attention to.
That said, if you’re the Blue Jays, and your main preoccupation is the 2016 stretch drive, right now he’s not really a fit. Ross Atkins has, in fact, even specifically pointed out what a real fit for the Jays looks like right now — as Ian from the Blue Jay Hunter pointed out over the weekend.
Speaking to Mike Wilner during a radio broadcast, Atkins said this:
As you look around, I think the one area that is not necessarily individual, it’s the fact that we are right-handed dominant. If we could add a left-handed bat to this team that is hot, that’s established and has a great track record, that would be fantastic.
It would be really hard to do … because where would you play him and what would be the cost?
Based on the headline and the lead photo and the words, the Blue Jay Hunter took this statment to be Atkins describing Joey Votto “down to the exact details without mentioning the name.” that Atkins “went right there to Joey Votto,” and that, “unprovoked, Atkins kind of/sort of acknowledged the Blue Jays’ interest in Joey Votto.”
For starters, “where would you play him?” is an indication that Atkins is very specifically not going “right there to Joey Votto,” given that we know exactly where he’d play.
Go look at the list of hot, established, great track-record left-handed bats — go look at the list of hot, established, great track record anything! — and you’re going to find guys who are extremely costly and not necessarily easy to squeeze into an already very strong lineup like the Blue Jays’.
A quick look at the vs. R as L leaderboard at FanGraphs this year gives you a pretty good answer: Ortiz, Cano, Carpenter, Rizzo, Seager, Freeman, Harper, Yelich, Bradley, Lamb, Pederson, Gonzalez, VMart, *COUGH* Ryan Schimpf, of course, Votto, and a whole bunch of others. And sure, maybe you could make the case that if you go through those other names none of them is really available, while Votto very much might be, all of what Atkins was saying applies to just about any of them, too.
So… yeah… I’m just going to leave this here. Again.
But as for the very general qualities that Atkins was speaking about there, sure! The Jays should find one of those if they can! Which, of course, means no Puig. At least not until the off-season.
So it goes…