According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly indicated over the weekend that Yasiel Puig could serve as the club’s leadoff hitter this season.
The plan calls for Carl Crawford, who hit leadoff in 86 games last season, to slide down to the No. 2 spot in the order. Mattingly believes that the change will provide better righty-lefty balance in the lineup. In this scenario, Puig and Crawford would be followed by the right-handed hitting Hanley Ramirez and the left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalez.
Puig hit .319/.391/.534 in 104 games as a rookie last season while making the majority of his starts (51) out of the No. 2 spot. The 23-year-old also made 27 starts out of the leadoff spot, 17 out of the cleanup spot, and one out of the fifth spot in the order.
Puig was a spark plug for the Dodgers last year and finished with a higher walk rate (8.8 percent) than the league average, but he was just 11-for-19 (59 percent) in stolen base attempts. The Dodgers will have to hope that he gets better picking his spots in 2014.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.