Despite a disappointing 2015 season in which Yasiel Puig was limited by hamstring injuries to a career-worst 79 games, and constant trade rumors that fall, the Los Angeles Dodgers remained steadfast in their support of the enigmatic outfielder.
Puig underwent an offseason transformation, shedding weight at the request of Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, and reporting to Spring Training with a refined work ethic. That paid immediate dividends, with the 25-year-old swinging a strong bat early.
But Puig eventually cooled off, was forced to the DL in June, and endured another rocky season. He was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City after the Dodgers failed to trade Puig prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline.
He was recalled in September and primarily platooned with Josh Reddick in right field. The Dodgers think highly of Puig, but if that will equate to him remaining with the organization is unclear.
“What he’s capable of doing to impact a game is something we all value very highly,” Friedman said. “As far as how the winter unfolds on a number of different fronts, obviously remains to be seen.”
At the time he was hired Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained he was looking forward to working with and forming a strong relationship with Puig. Roberts said this week he didn’t find it “difficult” to manage the oft-criticized outfielder.
“His energy, his will to get better and to get along with teammates and coaches, was consistent throughout the season. We just felt there was a point where he needed to get consistent at-bats,” Roberts said.
“We felt as an organization for him to go down to Oklahoma City and play, that he could get better as a player and man. And he did that. He came back energized, on board for the team, and so obviously for us to include him on the postseason roster was a credit to him. All that I heard prior about Yasiel, I enjoyed getting to know him as a person. Obviously, you can’t ignore the skill set. He impacts a game in a lot of different ways.”
Reddick is eligible to become a free agent this winter, but the Dodgers nonetheless have an excess number of outfielders under contract. That depth served as a necessity over the past few seasons as injuries set in.
“First of all, having a good number of talented outfielders is a great problem to have,” Friedman said. “We have time to work through it and see what makes the most sense. If we’re starting from the point of having a lot of talented players at a position, we’ll take that.”
One option involving Puig that is often speculated has the Dodgers revisiting trade talks with the Milwaukee Brewers. The clubs reportedly were close to a trade centered around a swap of Puig and Ryan Braun during the final minutes before the non-waiver deadline.