We recently explained the Yasiel Puig-related craziness from MLB trade deadline day on Monday, and touched on why a Puig trade is less likely now than it was before -- even though he was officially optioned to the minors on Tuesday:
Now let's approach this mess from a slightly different angle by answering the following question: just where does Puig fit into the new Dodgers lineup and plans after the team acquired Josh Reddick?
Because the Dodgers were off on Monday, we haven't seen what Dave Roberts has in mind for his new-look outfield. We can guess that Reddick will be stationed in Puig's old right-field haunt most days, ditto for Joc Pederson in center. That leaves left field for some combination of Howie Kendrick and Andrew Toles -- a rookie who has played well during his cameo. Sprinkle in a little Trayce Thompson, Enrique Hernandez, and Scott Van Slyke -- mostly against tough left-handed pitchers -- and maybe a pinch of Andre Ethier and you have the makings of the Dodgers' outfield arrangements. They have a lot of options, basically.
ok wait I figured out what the Dodgers are doing it's genius pic.twitter.com/A7FmoIN3eX— Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) August 1, 2016
But assuming Puig isn't traded in the coming weeks -- and again, he'd have to clear waivers and/or be claimed by a team that has the pieces to acquire him -- then it isn't hard to see him working his way back into the Dodgers' lineup by season's end.
Consider this. Puig's season has been a disappointment in large part due to his less-than-normal offensive numbers. Yet he entered Tuesday batting .260/.320/.386 with seven home runs (and had played better since returning from the disabled list). Kendrick, who has and will continue to get steady burn, entered hitting .269/.333/.385 with six home runs over more plate appearances. That's a tiny difference -- the difference between a 93 OPS+ and a 96 OPS+ -- and if you had to bet on one or the other providing more production heading forward, you'd pick Puig. You'd probably pick Puig over the Dodgers' other left-field options, too.
Obviously it's not that straightforward. The Dodgers are likely fed up with Puig for reasons that go beyond his statistics -- you can't throw a rock without hitting an accusation or insinuation about his makeup -- but while he's there, they might as well make the most of him. That figures to mean, at some point over the next few weeks, giving him a chance to win the left-field job, where he would provide a greater ceiling than the current concoction the Dodgers have brewing.
After that? The Dodgers will be better positioned to ship Puig out of town. More teams will be in play for his services, there won't be games on the schedule for the ensuing few months, and so on. But right now? These Dodgers appear as if they're still going to need Puig -- whether they like it or not.