Rosenthal: Dodgers would be very particular about return value in trading Puig
I heard a trade rumor this week, heard it more than once. The concept sounded plausible enough to check, so I did.
As it turned out, the move was never discussed. I’m presenting it now only as a way of explaining how the Dodgers view right fielder Yasiel Puig.
According to sources, the Dodgers will trade Puig only if they can obtain equivalent value — and it will be difficult to obtain equivalent value for a player who is 24, extremely talented and relatively inexpensive while under club control through 2019.
The Dodgers are looking to add, not add and subtract, sources say. The rumor I heard — Puig and two top prospects for Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto and closer Aroldis Chapman — would have amounted to addition and subtraction.
So, why did I think the idea possibly had merit?
Because it would have left the Dodgers with:
● Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Cueto at the top of their rotation;
● Kenley Jansen and Chapman as a late-inning 1-2 punch late;
● Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke as their remaining outfielders.
Yet, the Dodgers would never do such a thing, even if it had been brought to their attention.
Cueto is a two-month rental. Chapman is a free agent after next season. Puig, meanwhile, is under club control through 2019. The two top prospects would be under control for six years each once they reach the majors.
Do the math: We’re talking one year and four months of the two Reds pitchers for 16-plus years of Puig and the two prospects.
Sure, the Dodgers want to win the World Series this season. But they also want to win in subsequent seasons. Chances are they can get the pitching they need at a lesser price, considering the large number of options available leading to the non-waiver deadline on Friday.
The Dodgers need bullpen as well as rotation help, but their front office is disinclined to pay July prices for relievers, sources say. Chapman, the best closer in the game, naturally would command the highest price for all.
So, while the Dodgers might add a reliever, it won’t be in an Eduardo Rodriguez-for-Andrew Miller-type deal — particularly when they have two prospects at Double=A, left-hander Julio Urias and right-hander Chris Anderson, who could join the major-league club later in the season.
Options, teams consider all options. The possibilities for the Dodgers include not just Cueto, but also Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, et al. The bullpen market also is deep, and there is a growing sense among buyers that the overall surplus could lead to some relative bargains at the deadline.
As for Puig, numerous teams are asking about him, sources say. But as I wrote earlier in the week, he has made an effort since the All-Star break to be a better teammate. What’s more, the Dodgers remain optimistic about his upside, and they need his right-handed power long term — Pederson, Adrian Gonzalez and top prospect Corey Seager are all left-handed hitters.
Does that mean Puig is untouchable? It would be foolish to make such an assumption. The Dodgers are open to anything, and stunning trades have become almost the norm in the sport.
But again, try determining equivalent value for Puig. Would it be one of the Mets’ young starters? Someone like Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray? How about White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, who is signed to club-friendly salaries through ’19?
The problem right now with Puig is that his overall game and ability to improve are in question — he certainly isn’t as accomplished as Gray or Sale, and neither of those pitchers is available, anyway. If the Dodgers determine that they absolutely must get him out of their clubhouse, then it’s a different equation. But again, such talk has quieted in recent weeks.
The truth will emerge at the deadline, just as it always does. But if the Dodgers’ intention is to add and only add, they’re unlikely to subtract Puig.