The non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball is less than two weeks away, and the rumors will start ramping up in their frequency and scope in the final days. One of the Dodgers' obvious needs is an outfield bat, which makes the latest suggestion by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that the club is open to trading Yasiel Puig a little bit puzzling.
Dodgers outfielders as a whole are hitting just .233/.310/.402 on the season. They rank 12th in the National League in OPS, 12th in on-base percentage, 10th in slugging percentage, dead last in batting average, 11th in wOBA (.308) and ninth in wRC+ (94), the latter adjusted for park.
"Would it make sense for [Puig]'s team to look for a better hitter at his position and more proficient outfielders in general? Of course it would," Rosenthal wrote. "Which is why [Puig]'s team, at the very least, is open to trading him, according to major-league sources."
The non-waiver trade deadline was moved one day forward this year so it wasn't on a Sunday. This year the deadline is at 1 p.m. PT on Monday, Aug. 1. The Dodgers are off that day.
Now is as good a time as any for a reminder to always fully read reports of trade rumors, at the very least for context. To me, the worst part of trade deadline season is the game of telephone that causes a very loose rumor to be picked up by a content aggregator, going only off of a headline, and by the time the rumor gets passed around enough it gets completely distorted.
In this case, Rosenthal is at the top of the heap among national reporters both in his accuracy and his connections within the industry, so there is little reason to doubt him. But even he reported that the Dodgers are open to trading Puig, which isn't the same as the club actively shopping him.
I believe the Dodgers are open to trade just about anybody if the price is right, outside of probably Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager.
At the very least, this Rosenthal report is much stronger than his July 9 video report, which was more of a suggestion that the Dodgers would consider moving Puig depending on if the club made other moves and/or when Andre Ethier returns from the disabled list.
The problem in trading Puig goes back to the very problem discussed above, that the Dodgers need help in the outfield so why would they move one of their three best outfielders, and their best outfield defender?
The depth is already suffering. Joc Pederson is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, but Trayce Thompson is on the DL with back problems, and there is no timetable for Ethier's return from a fractured tibia, so it's probably not reasonable to expect much once he is ready to return.
Over the weekend in Arizona, the Dodgers started Andrew Toles and Zach Walters in the outfield, and had Puig and Scott Van Slyke make their first starts in center field since 2014. The club has started veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick in left field 34 times this season, on purpose. And this is a team that should trade Puig?
The two most mentioned outfield additions for the Dodgers are Jay Bruce off the Reds and Josh Reddick of the Athletics, the latter acquired by Oakland in December 2011 when current Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi was the director of baseball operations with the A's.
Both are left-handed with strong platoon splits, and if acquired could at the very least team with Van Slyke for one productive corner outfield spot.
The question of whether to trade Puig is entirely dependent on the return. With two years and $14 million remaining on his contract after 2016, plus one more year of salary arbitration (2019) before he's eligible for free agency, there is certainly some value there. He's still just 25 years old.
If Puig is a part of a deal, let's say to the Yankees — pure speculation here — that nets Andrew Miller, maybe even with free-agent-to-be Carlos Beltran included to take Puig's place in the Dodgers outfield for two months, that means presumably fewer top prospects the club would have to give up in said deal. The Dodgers would have to at least consider it.
Or maybe a trade of Puig nets prospects in return who could be packaged in some other deal. After all, it has been nearly a year since the Dodgers front office pulled off a multi-team trade so maybe they are getting itchy.
Ultimately I don't think the Dodgers will move Puig this month, but rather will add at least one outfielder. But the fact that this rumor hasn't gone away means that the possibility will continue to loom either until he is dealt or on Aug. 1, whichever comes first.