St. Louis Cardinals: Time to Pick Up Yasiel Puig
While the St. Louis Cardinals continue to have a rocky and inconsistent season, the Dodgers have just placed their young outfielder on trade waivers. It’s time for St. Louis to make a move and put him in the Birds on the Bat.
This is a wildly unpopular opinion. I know from the very first word of this article that people will instantly rain disapproval, confusion and even some mild anger upon me. They’ll say ‘tell me, why in the world would the St. Louis Cardinals take Puig?’
It’s not a silly retort, it’s a genuine counter-argument. What do the Cardinals have to lose by snatching up a 25-year old former All-Star outfielder? Let’s go through some possible points of contention.
The Cardinals already have a packed outfield. Where do you play Puig?
This is probably the toughest one to argue, which is why I’m addressing it first. Right now, the Cardinals’ major league outfield depth chart, the mess that it is, rife with injuries, looks something like this:
LF: Brandon Moss / Jeremy Hazelbaker / Tommy Pham
CF: Randal Grichuk / Tommy Pham / Stephen Piscotty / Jeremy Hazelbaker
RF: Stephen Piscotty / Tommy Pham / Jeremy Hazelbaker
There’s a grand total of 5 outfielders, one of who most believe doesn’t have the offensive nor defensive chops to play on the MLB squad (Hazelbaker). Grichuk’s inconsistent but has been hitting well, and has Pham to back him up. Piscotty’s been the most constant in right, and he’s not going anywhere.
That leaves Brandon Moss and left field. But there’s no reason Moss has to play left. In fact, it’d serve the team much, much better to play him at 1B every day, with an infield of Matt Carpenter at 2B, Jedd Gyorko at 3rd, and Jhonny Peralta at short (sigh). It’s not ideal with the absence of Aledmys Diaz and seeming disappearance of Kolten Wong, but it’s what they’ve got.
That leaves left field wide open with Moss at 1B, Matt Adams injured and unlikely to ever act as much more than a bench bat, and Matt Holliday likely done with his time as a Cardinal. That’s where Puig slots in.
True, Puig has little to no experience in LF, playing in center and right for the Dodgers. But his cannon for an arm and serviceable defense (certainly better than Holliday) makes the case that it wouldn’t be an insanely difficult adjustment.
He hasn’t been a good player in almost 2 years. Why bother?
Why bother? Let’s look at Yasiel Puig‘s stats in those first 2 years of play, over 252 games, when he received consistent starts and was allowed to shine, before any injuries or the like
Batting averages of .319 and .296 in ’13 and ’14.
OPS+ of 159 in his rookie year and 145 in his sophomore.
2nd in Rookie of the Year voting, and received MVP votes both years.
Not to say his last 2 seasons haven’t been subpar; they most definitely have been. But the potential of a young, perennial All-Star outfielder is there. Is it not worth at least that tiny chance that he returns to his former glory?
He still sports a career line of .288/.362/.468. It’s worth a shot.
His attitude is toxic, and will affect the Cardinals clubhouse.
This is the point that I most disagree with, and think is the silliest; and yet, it’s what much of the opposition to this deal go to.
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Over the past seasons, we’ve heard Puig defined as lazy, but also cocky. Part of it is cultural, part of it is just his personality. Yada yada yada.
A loud, passionate guy is just what this Cardinals team needs. They need a shot in the arm, someone to propel them; in a dugout full of passive, quiet leaders (Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright), maybe Puig’s personality isn’t so much of a con as a pro.
Besides, the Cardinals have survived with “toxic” personalities before; remember A.J. Pierzynski?
His contract isn’t worth it.
Puig’s getting 6MM/year til 2018. This would be a steep asking price for a risky take if the Cardinals weren’t, in all likelihood, letting go of Matt Holliday (club option for 17MM in ’17), and possibly Jaime Garcia (12MM club option for ’17) and even Jordan Walden, although his contract pales in comparison to those two.
Combine that with the fact that even with those two contracts, the Cardinals have a load of open funds, and it’s a no brainer to take a ~12MM risk over 2 seasons.
Next: Carlos Martinez MUST Start Wild Card
This isn’t a tough decision. Yasiel Puig has the potential to add some pop to both the lineup and the dugout, under relatively risk-free circumstances. The St. Louis Cardinals would be fools to not grab ahold of that potential.