After a disappointing 2015 season in which hamstring injuries limited him to a career-worst 79 games, Yasiel Puig was the subject of multiple trade rumors throughout the winter. He also was the subject of an alleged domestic violence incident centered around an altercation with his sister.
Puig was eventually cleared by MLB, and the Dodgers decided against trading their mercurial outfielder. Amid persisting trade speculation, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi regularly voiced their support of Puig.
Friedman instructed the 25-year-old to lose weight during the offseason as a means to prevent recurring hamstring injuries. Puig did so, and got off to a strong start this season.
He did land on the disabled list in early June with a strained left hamstring, and was option to Triple-A Oklahoma City in August.
Puig’s demotion came after the Dodgers failed to trade him prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline. His future with the organization was again on shaky ground.
However, as the Dodgers continued to struggle against left-handed pitching, Puig was recalled once active rosters expanded in September. By all accounts he was a better teammate with an improved work ethic and focus.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Zaidi said that has the club viewing Puig in an optimistic light:
“He hit .300 [in September], he got some big hits for us. He played fairly regularly. It was a different dynamic. We had a bunch of left-handed bats in the outfield, so he wasn’t playing every day like he might otherwise. I would say he did everything we asked, and we feel really good about where he is.”
At the time of rejoining the Dodgers, Puig vowed he learned from the demotion and was an improved player across the board. He backed that up by accepting a platoon role with Josh Reddick in right field.
Puig batted .281/.338/.561 with four doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI over 23 games (13 starts) during the final month of the regular season. He went 4-for-19 with three walks, two of which were intentional, in 10 postseason games (three starts).
Puig has accrued enough Major League service time to opt for salary arbitration. However, it would not result in him earning more than the $6.5 million salary his contract calls for in 2017. Puig is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season.
Even with Zaidi’s vote of confidence, Puig figures to be part of trade speculation through the winter.