The Los Angeles Dodgers may be considering trading outfielder Yasiel Puig in the coming days. And they certainly want to bolster their rotation.
For anyone following the Oakland A’s, it seems all too perfect. Scott Kazmir for the Cuban All-Star. And maybe even some prospects.
Puig hasn’t been the most popular member of the Dodgers clubhouse over the last two seasons, and his dysfunctional moments were recently chronicled in Molly Knight’s new book, “The Best Team Money Can Buy.”
Kazmir is the ultimate clubhouse guy, with veteran savvy and enough youth to remain assured that is arm can endure a long playoff run.
He’s also the best pitcher, statistically, of anyone who will hit the market. Cole Hamels is the next best, but comes saddled with a bloated contract. Johnny Cueto is having a terrific season, and has enjoyed sustained success throughout his career, but his unorthodox delivery might trouble some scouts.
Here’s the stats over the last two years for each:
Kazmir 2014: 190.1 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP; 2015: 109.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Hamels 2014: 204.2 IP, 2.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP; 2015: 116.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Cueto 2014: 243.2 IP, 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP; 2015: 118.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
Beyond that, Kazmir is the only pitcher of the group to allow more than three runs in just a single appearance this year. It’s six times this season for Hamels, and five times for Cueto, which could mean a lot to the Dodgers in their quest for playoff success, where consistency is more valuable than almost anything.
Cueto has been the most dominant pitcher when measured by field-independent pitching (Cueto has a 2.05 FIP score), with Kazmir (3.14 FIP) second and Hamels (3.40 FIP) third. But they’re all top-flight, and have the numbers to bring in a massive haul.
For Hamels, it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies would want Puig. He’s still young, but his baggage is substantial. They’d want L.A.’s upper echelon prospects, and it would be silly for the Dodgers to offer those unless it became a last-ditch market.
The market for Cueto, too, is something that would involve high-upside prospects. And while Puig would be next to unstoppable inside Great American Ballpark, the Reds are in full-on rebuild mode, and starting now. Not last year, or the year prior.
The A’s are in a different position. They have a fair level of talent, and began re-tooling this past winter. They’re a team built to win in 2016, and have an obvious place for Puig alongside a general manager that could give a rat’s tail about team chemistry.
The next issue is control. Kazmir and Cueto are set to be free agents. Hamels is not, but also owed $23.5 million per season until 2019, in which there’s a $20 million team option that could become $24 million if he pitches 400 innings in the two seasons prior.
By trading for Kazmir, the Dodgers would gain control of a top-level starter who is both affordable in dollars and personnel. They would lose little immediately and even less towards the future.
Which brings up the final major point: if the Dodgers are thinking long-term — all signs point to exactly that — they could sign David Price, Cueto, or a few others this offseason, if they can’t retain Kazmir. Or they could double up.
But with Hamels, they’re stuck with a monster contract that lasts until he is 35 years old. And it’s highly unlikely that Hamels performs anywhere close to that dollar amount.
Flexibility is at the highest level with Kazmir, which can’t really be said for Cueto or Hamels.
Lastly, Hamels and Cueto’s numerical difference are misleading when compared with those of Kazmir, who plays in the American League.
Which means that Kazmir has pitched to one more hitter that either Cueto or Hamels have per every three or so innings, and typically that designated hitter spot is reserved for guys like David Ortiz, Victor Martinez or Adam Lind, guys who rake and rake hard. Add that in, maybe only a run per 14 innings, which seems fair, and Kazmir might be the best across the board in contrast.
Whether the Dodgers go through with such a move, remains to be seen. But it does appear to be the best option by a wide margin both now, and into the future.
Man Bear Puig
Puig is a player with upside only, much like a meddling prospect. He’s never hit 20 home runs in his two seasons, never stolen 15 or more bases, never hit for 70 RBI.
His selection to the All-Star Game in 2014 was more farce than deserving, probably because he was the face of the Dodgers for a brief period.
His defense isn’t exceptional, but solid, and the baggage is cause for concern. In fact, it’s the largest reason that LA would trade Puig.
His cap number, though, packaged with the power missing in Oakland’s batting order, is something that the A’s desire. There’s no question that Oakland’s lineup strikes little fear into the hearts of pitchers.
They also don’t have much power depth in their farm system. Anything close to resembling a 30 home run player is entirely absent. Even in Matt Chapman, currently playing third base for the Single-A Stockton Ports.
The control is a huge plus for the A’s as well, two seasons beyond 2015 with low salaries, and a player option for arbitration over the next two seasons.
And to be totally fair, Puig’s potential hasn’t been reached in part because he’s still very young at 24. And even with concerns regarding his work ethic, it’s a deal that has little downside for Oakland, as well as the Dodgers.
Especially considering that the Dodgers can probably bring in another better player to replace Puig for little to nothing. Maybin or Upton, as mentioned above, along with Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and others.