Andrew Friedman: Dodgers Believe ‘There’s A Lot Of Upside’ With Yasiel Puig
Andrew Friedman: Dodgers Believe ‘there’s A Lot Of Upside’ With Yasiel Puig
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Yasiel Puig has been at the center of scrutiny since he signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June 2012. Although Puig was an intriguing international talent given his size and speed, many believed the Dodgers vastly overspent on the Cuban native.

Puig was then criticized for his style of play and any mistakes made, no matter how minute they were. That didn’t mean much to the Dodgers, who up until recent weeks, appeared committed to Puig and the prolonged learning curve that’s come with him.

Los Angeles attempted to trade the 25-year-old prior to the non-waiver deadline this week and when they were unable to, demoted Puig to the Minors. He’s expected to join Triple-A Oklahoma City but what day Puig will report to the Minor League affiliate is still unknown.

The Dodgers’ decision struck some as curious one given Puig is the club’s most talented outfielder and he’d improved at the plate since coming off the disabled list in June. Some light was shed as the demotion reportedly is tied to off-the-field-matters.

In his first public comments since the club’s course of action, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman discussed the strong start Puig got off to this season, via MLB Network Radio:

“There’s a lot out there, as is typical in sports and things, that some are are based in truth and some have just taken on a life of its own. There are definitely things he can do to improve and get better, no question about it. It’s interesting, because I was very optimistic coming into the year, and I think he started out the first week where he did a really good job of laying off pitches middle-in. That first week, I don’t know if he hit a ball under 100 mph. It was incredible how locked in he was. After that, he started going through a little bit of a tailspin and wasn’t nearly as productive at the plate as he expects himself to be, as we expect him to be. He was still playing Gold-Glove caliber defense.”

Friedman pointed to the progress made after Puig’s stint on the disabled list as reason the club remains optimistic more improvement is ahead:

“He then had the hamstring injury, came back from that and actually performed pretty well offensively. During that time on the DL, we were really trying to address some swing issues and bad habits that over time have become muscle memory and engrained in what he does. It’s just hard to do in that period of time, especially when you’re playing at the big league level. For him to have the success that he had by making just a little bit of the changes we wanted to make, make us even more encouraged about him going down to really focus on it and address it. We still feel like there’s a lot of upside there and a guy that can really impact the baseball game on both sides.”

Friedman reiterated his belief Major League Baseball has a flawed approach in signing international free agents and quickly putting them in an environment they are not accustomed to. Friedman added he believes Puig is aware of that and wants connect with his teammates:

“The expectations are different, how teammates internalize things are different, and I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job with helping to explain those things. We just kind of take it for granted. This offseason I was actually really encouraged when I saw an interview in February with Yasiel when he was at the Caribbean World Series and he said, ‘I don’t know what it means to be a good teammate.’ That actually showed me some vulnerability and desire to learn and figure it out. There’s definitely been improvement. Is there more to come? Definitely. We’ve handled those conversations with him. He’s actually been really accountable and understands what the expectations are, and is anxious to learn more. When someone has pride it’s hard for them to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Instead of that, it manifests itself in different ways that can bother people around them. It’s just about the education process and I think Yasiel is at a crossroads where taking on that desire to learn and improve can set his career down one track. If not, it’ll go down the other. In conversations with him these last few days, I’m very optimistic about it.”

While Friedman spoke with optimism about Puig’s future, general belief has the Dodgers still searching for a trade. That will require the team to place him on waivers, which in turn will lead to multiple possibilities.

Puig this season is batting .260/.320/.386 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 81 games.