Since signing a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June 2012, Yasiel Puig has been a target of criticism. It began with claims the Dodgers severely overpaid for the Cuban import, and has continued with Puig’s work ethic and attitude coming under fire.
One season removed from being named a National League All-Star, the polarizing outfielder was limited to a career-low 79 games due to multiple hamstring injuries that required stints on the disabled list.
He managed to return in time for the final two regular-season games and made the Dodgers’ postseason roster, but was a non-factor in three games (one start) against the New York Mets.
While Puig’s name has surfaced in trade rumors this offseason, the Dodgers have maintained a stance of wanting to keep him on their roster, with a focus on getting the 25 year old back on track.
Part of that entails new manager Dave Roberts forming a strong relationship with Puig. The two met for the first time at the Dodgers FanFest event on Jan. 30, and by all accounts it went well.
Another hurdle of sorts that needs to be cleared is Puig and his teammates developing better relationships. According to ESPN’s Jorge Morejón, Puig believes Roberts will aid that process, and the Dodgers outfielder also turned to Miguel Cabrera and Nelson Cruz for advice:
“I talked to him and I am glad that he’s on board, because I believe that he will help me a lot to relate to everybody on the team,” Puig said. “When I was in Cuba [in December], I asked Nelson Cruz and Miguel Cabrera for some advice, because in their beginnings in MLB, they were also criticized. I don’t know how to do it [to relate]. I’m not going locker by locker, shaking hands with everyone. The people like to criticize everything. They even criticized God, whom they didn’t know, so, it doesn’t matter if they criticize Yasiel Puig.”
Last November, Andy Van Slyke, father of Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, implied during a radio interview that Clayton Kershaw asked the club to trade Puig. The close relationship between Kershaw and Scott gave the claim some merit.
Both Kershaw and Van Slyke largely denied such a conversation took place between the two. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last December he was not approached by Kershaw with the request or demand.
Puig enters the 2016 season with an opportunity to start from scratch — at least with his manager. He’ll be attempting to do so having trimmed down, with the hope it will help alleviate the hamstring injuries that plagued him last season.