Dodgers GM: Yasiel Puig is “an important part of our ballclub”

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Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in 2013 as one of the brightest young superstars in the game. In the following three seasons, however, injuries, behavior and attitude problems and poor, frustrating fundamentals causes his stock in Los Angeles to sink. This past August he was demoted to Triple-A in the course of the Dodgers’ playoff push and, it seemed, his time in Los Angeles was effectively over.

He raked in the minors, however, and was called back up in time for the playoffs. While he was not a real factor for the Dodgers in October, his team’s front office says that he is once again part of the Dodgers’ plans going forward:

“He did everything we asked him to do in the last two months, so we’re in a much better place,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday at the GM meetings . . . “[he has] re-established himself as an important part of our ballclub.”

Whether that means Puig stays in Los Angeles, of course, is an open question.

On the one hand, if the Dodgers still wish to move Puig, as it was reported they most certainly wanted to late in the season, Zaidi has every incentive to talk him up as a reformed player ready to reestablish himself as a superstar. Smart GMs know not to badmouth the players they wish to move, especially when people may already be suspicious about that players’ character and quality.

On the other hand, when your other outfield options apart from established center fielder Joc Pederson are Andre Ethier, Andrew Toles, Howie Kendrick, Scott Van Slyke, Kiké Hernandez and Trayce Thompson, it’s not like you have a ton of quality out there. Especially for a playoff contender. Either is old and injury prone. Kendrick is unhappy in the outfield and has made it clear that he wants to be traded. The other options are platoon or utility options at best. Simply put, beyond Pederson, Puig is the best outfielder the Dodgers have right now.

If Puig is to be moved, Dodgers fans had best hope it’s in a package for a solid, middle-of-the-order bat. If he is not to be moved, they had best hope that Zaidi is correct and that he truly is back 2013 mode or at least something close to it.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”