According to various sources, the Dodgers have agreed in principle with Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig on a seven year, $42 million deal. The contract is awaiting MLB's approval and conditional on Puig passing a physical. The deal could become official tomorrow.
So there you have it. The big splash. New ownership walking the walk in terms of investing financially in this team's future. The only question is: does this deal make sense for the Dodgers?
Puig, a 21 year old Cuban native, successfully defected from his home country earlier this month. Previously, he played for Cuba's top league as a 19 year old, batting .330 with 17 home runs and more walks (49) than strikeouts (39). Unfortunately, that was his last taste of competitive ball upon which evaluators have to draw conclusions.
Yasiel was suspended from play in 2011-2012 from Cuba's top league for attempting to defect. After going to Mexico, he didn't participate in any games and hadn't picked up a bat until a bizarre workout last week, in which he showed up 2 hours late and only took batting practice.
The scouting reports on him are mixed. On one hand, he's got an MLB body at 6'3 and 210 pounds. He has power and speed, with boasts of 5 tool athleticism from his supporters. On the other hand, his recent workout and scarce opportunities to scout him have yielded unenthusiastic reports saying that he looks out of shape, lacks looseness in his swing and is raw in the outfield.
For $42 million, you want a guy who's going to produce. But that figure is inflated due to the impeding changes on the international free agent market. Along with sweeping changes to draft spending, the latest collective bargaining agreement places restrictions on how much teams can spend on amateurs from around the world. Starting on July 2, teams will have around $3 million per year to spend on players from Latin America, Asia, etc. This gave teams an impetus to get their spending in before the cap takes place, which is why the Cubs snagged Jorge Soler for $30 million and the Dodgers paid Puig $42 million. It should be noted that the Dodgers' offer was reportedly not the highest one Puig received.
So here's another million dollar question: is Yasiel worth it? Right now, that's impossible to tell. With negative scouting reports and a lack of scouting info on him, he's difficult to evaluate. However, he has the physical tools to succeed and be a good major leaguer.
In spite of his agent's claims, Puig isn't ready to play in the majors right now. He'll head to Arizona and possibly be assigned to an A ball affiliate. I'd expect him to begin 2013 in Double A as a 22 year old. If he succeeds there, then he should get a change in the show.
Personally, I see this move as more of a statement from ownership than a crafty acquisition. I think Walter, Kasten, Johnson et al feel they need to prove to the fanbase that they'll invest in the team long term. And that's exactly what this deal says. They're willing to gamble on an unproven player in order to show the fans they want to win. While I respect that idea, I have to question that pragmatism of throwing so much money at a guy who hasn't played in a year.
The Dodgers have now spent $287 million on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig. That's a ton of money for three players. If the Dodgers want to be competitive long term, they have to spend money. But, more importantly, they have to spend money wisely.
Stay tuned as I'm hoping to get some exclusive, expert opinions on the signing which will be added to this article later. In the mean time, check out the forums and be sure to follow @LADugout on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.
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