21-year-old Yasiel Puig didn’t receive the same kind of hype as Yoenis Cespedes after defecting from Cuba. He did receive the same kind of money, though, mostly thanks to the new Dodgers ownership’s desire to flex its financial muscle.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Dodgers signed Puig to a deal worth $42 million over seven years. It’s twice what most expected him to get and $6 million more than Cespedes received from the A’s this spring.
Puig is an interesting talent. In his second and final season in Cuba, he hit .330/.430/.581 with 17 homers and a 39/49 K/BB ratio in 327 at-bats. And he did that at age 19, which is pretty exceptional even given the high offensive levels in Cuba. He’s also said to have excellent speed.
Still, the Dodgers would seem to be taking a huge risk here. Puig didn’t play last year. He hit a modest .276/.371/.425 in his first season in Cuba. For all of his supposed speed, he was used primarily as a corner outfielder and he wasn’t much of a basestealer in Cuba, going 13-for-19 in his two seasons. There isn’t much in the way of scouting reports on him — unlike Cespedes, he never saw much action against international competition — but Baseball America doesn’t seem very impressed.
But then again, maybe huge risk is the wrong term. For the White Sox or Cubs — two teams that were considered quite interested in Puig — it certainly would be. The Dodgers, though, are flush with cash and can afford to roll the dice, even at such a lofty price. In a best-case scenario, their Puig-Matt Kemp-Andre Ethier outfield is the best in the NL come 2014. It’s also quite possible Puig flounders in the minors and proves to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. One thing that seems clear is that he’s going to need time; given that he hasn’t played in a year and a half and he doesn’t have all that much experience anyway, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll make an impact in the majors before mid-2013 at the earliest.
And that’s what’s really scary; this is pretty much the baseball equivalent of a Vegas trip. One person might set themselves a $250 gambling limit for the weekend, another $1,000. The Dodgers, on the other hand, can afford to gamble with $40 million right now, a concept that should have free-agent-to-be Cole Hamels awfully excited.