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What’s next for Yasiel Puig?

NLCS - Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

As with any offseason, there are a ton of moving parts, and the Dodgers’ offseason could go in various different directions. One of the key unknowns this winter is Yasiel Puig.

Puig is coming off an embattled season, one that saw him get sent to the minors for a month. It was his second straight ordinary year, hitting .263/.323/.416 with 11 home runs in 104 games.

There is the lure of chasing 2013-14, trying to coax a year out of Puig like his first two seasons, when he averaged .305/.386/.502 with 29 doubles and 18 home runs. It is that lure that also gives Puig trade value, with perhaps some other team thinking a change of scenery will unlock his potential.

There was the rumored trade talks with the Brewers centered around Puig and Ryan Bruan, the latter a more consistent right-handed power source, and one with $76 million and four years left on his contract.

But just because the Dodgers reportedly talked Puig/Braun with the Brewers in July and August doesn’t necessarily mean that will be revisited this offseason. After all, there was concern at the time that Puig might never play for the Dodgers again.

Puig did come back in September, and did by several accounts did everything that was asked of him.

"His energy and will to get better, and willingness to get along better with coaches teammates was consistent throughout the season,” manager Dave Roberts said after the season. “We were at a point where he needed to get consistent at-bats, and we felt that going down to Oklahoma City and play, to come back and learn some things, that he could get better as a player, as a man, with accountability, and he did that.”

Puig hit .281/.338/.561 with four home runs, four doubles and 11 RBI in September, but in a limited role. Counting the playoffs, he started all 15 games against left-handed pitchers after his return from the minors, but started just once in 22 games against right-handers.

Is that Puig’s role going forward, the short end of a platoon in right field? Will the Dodgers play him nearly every day? Or will he be traded?

If Puig is traded, there is a little more cost certainty going forward. Puig is due $6.5 million in 2017 and $7.5 million in 2018, then eligible for salary arbitration in 2019.

Puig, with three years, 102 days had the chance to opt into salary arbitration — something that seemed like a no-brainer back when he was a dynamic player in 2013-14 — but opted to remain with his current contract, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

And it’s easy to see why.

Puig, who turns 26 on December 7, is due $14 million over the next two years, which means a breakdown something like $5 million in 2017 and $9 million in 2018 just to match his current deal.

Using the always resourceful MLB Trade Rumors arbitration tracker, let’s look at last year’s crop. Manny Machado, at three years, 56 days settled for $5 million with the Orioles, coming off a 7-win season of .286/.359/.502 with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals and Gold Glove defense.

Their careers through three years of service time:

  • Machado (2012-15): .281/.330/.458, 114 OPS+, 103 doubles, 7 triples, 68 home runs, 252 runs, 215 RBI, 17.7 rWAR, 16.6 fWAR
  • Puig (2013-16): .287/.361/.472, 133 OPS+, 84 doubles, 16 triples, 57 home runs, 233 runs, 194 RBI, 12.7 rWAR, 12.1 fWAR

That’s a tough sell for Puig to match Machado, especially when the bulk of Puig’s career value came in his first two years.

But with three years before free agency, due $14 million over the next two seasons, there is still value in Puig. Whether that worth to the Dodgers means Puig still patrolling the outfield or netting someone else in trade remains to be seen.