clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Yasiel Puig represents Dave Roberts' first challenge as Dodgers manager

New, 223 comments
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- New Dodgers manager Dave Roberts owned the room on Tuesday at the Stadium Club at Dodger Stadium, his first time donning a Dodgers uniform since playing for the team in 2004. The Dodgers are confident they picked the right man, and that he will be able to get the most out of Yasiel Puig, arguably Roberts' biggest challenge.

Of immediate importance for Puig is investigation from Major League Baseball into a bar fight in Miami on Nov. 25, with a potential physical altercation with his sister — as reported by TMZ Sports — potentially triggering MLB's new domestic violence policy. That investigation from MLB, the Dodgers say, is expected to be concluded as early as this week.

Roberts on Tuesday said he reached out to 15 or 16 Dodgers players since being named manager. He left a message for Puig, who was out of the country at the time.

"I have never met him, never said a word to him," Roberts said of Puig. "I'm looking forward to meeting him and looking forward to building that relationship."

Roberts said he plans to visit Clayton Kershaw on Sunday in Dallas, on his way to the winter meetings in Nashville, which begin in earnest on Monday.

Roberts met in person with one other Dodger — Adrian Gonzalez, who also showed up at Roberts' press conference on Tuesday. The two were teammates in 2006 with the Padres, and Gonzalez was still in San Diego in 2010, Roberts' first year as a special assistant to the Padres front office.

Gonzalez thinks Roberts will be able to connect easily with Puig.

"Puig responds well to genuine people, who don't want something from him," Gonzalez said. "Dave is not after his own agenda, he's interested in what's best for Puig and for the team ... If he can get the best of him, the we can get the best for the team."

Puig is also coming off a down season, hitting just .255/.322/.436 with 11 home runs in 79 games. He was sidelined by over a month for injuries to both hamstrings, and also dealt with a thumb blister that affected his swing.

"There are things that happened over the course of this year, mechanically and health-wise, we didn't really get to see [a productive Puig] as much in 2015," president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "If you look at it from a scouting standpoint, on physical ability and what he can do on a baseball field, everybody in the organization appreciates what that can mean for wins. It's about us creating the right infrastructure to get the most out of all of our players."

There is also the issue of reported discord in the clubhouse surrounding Puig, with Andy Van Slyke — father of Scott — telling a St. Louis radio station that the Dodgers' highest-paid player — Kershaw — told the front office that club would be better off without Puig.

It is unclear when the reported Kershaw conversation took place, but Friedman, while denying reports of Kershaw's suggestion, chalked up any friction to normal locker room relationships.

"Everyone is not going to be best friends. There needs to be a certain respect, and a desire to win," Friedman explained. "Clayton said 'We have the best chance to win the most games with Yasiel Puig in the lineup.' But there are things that happen over the course of eight months when people are trying to win."

Even if trading Puig were on the table, the Dodgers would be dealing him at his low point in value, though he remains an attractive player, turning 25 on Monday, with four years before free agency. Puig has a team-friendly contract, with three years and $19.5 million remaining, though he can opt into salary arbitration as early as next offseason if he so chooses.

Friedman was asked if Puig might be traded this winter.

"Yasiel Puig can be a significant part of future success for the Los Angeles Dodgers," he said.