Baseball’s Hot Stove season began last week before the Red Sox clubhouse attendants had even finished steam-cleaning all the champagne residue and beard follicles out of Boston clubhouse carpet. Monday morning on MLB Network, the topic of trades came up and host Matt Vasgersian floated this crazy sounding idea: the Dodgers should consider deals for Yasiel Puig, namely for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, it should happen though. Mine is will the Dodgers trade Yasiel Puig?,” Vasgersian said on the air. “And to take it a step further, will they trade him to the Miami Marlins with anybody else not named Clayton Kershaw in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton. You can take Puig and anything else the heck you want as long as it’s not Kershaw. Today, I’d do that deal. Package me up any group of Dodgers with Puig, bring me Stanton. That’s what I’d do for a litany for reasons.”
At least one baseball Hall of Fame member, Peter Gammons, was on board with it.
Before looking at this rationally any sort of Puig speculation would be based on the idea his value will never be higher than it is right now, mostly due to his name reputation and potential to sell tickets. In this specific case Puig, a Cuban, would be a big drawing card in Miami which averaged only 19,500 fans — playing at 52 percent capacity in the second year of Marlins Park.
Conversely there’s just as good an argument Puig, who’ll be 23 on Dec. 7, is only scratching the surface of his potential. As a rookie he posted a .319/.391/.534 line with 19 homers in 382 at bats, helping transform the Dodgers season from a club floundering in last place to runaway National League West winners. Beyond that he’s arguably the most exciting player in the game regardless of whether or not he breaks the games “unwritten rules,” which was a topic during the NLCS vs. the Cardinals.
Something else to consider with Puig is most players in his age range are bargains for clubs, playing on rookie deals and under arbitration for a couple seasons. Los Angeles gave him a seven-year, $42 million deal after he defected from Cuba, so he’s making around $7 million per season until 2017. Some have floated the idea the Dodgers need to shed some payroll in order to retain probable repeat Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who’s a free agent a year from now, but moving Puig’s salary isn’t that much of a difference maker. The Dodgers’ payroll was $216 in 2013 and will only go up from there, luxury tax be damned.
Stanton, 23, is under team control until 2016 and only pocketed around $500,000 in 2013, but figure he’s due a healthy raise in arbitration in the winter making his and Puig’s salary roughly comparable until they hit free agency down the road.
Health is the biggest issue for Stanton, whom the Marlins have repeatedly said they won’t deal. (Given Miami’s track record, who would believe them?) The California native has never played more than 150 games in his four-year career, making the Dodgers leery about adding him considering the recent inability for Matt Kemp to stay on the field.
Stanton led the National League in slugging (.608) as a 22-year-old in 2012 and most scouts say Stanton has the most raw power in the game with 117 homers in 489 games. In his small career sample size Stanton’s recorded a 14.9 home run-per-at bat ratio. He hasn’t played enough games to qualify, but that would place him between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez for the 13th best ratio in baseball history. Not too shabby, right?
When you look at it like this, a Puig-for-Stanton trade isn’t as crazy as it sounds at first glance and could help both clubs, although it has the same likelihood of happening as me winning a luge gold medal at the Socchi Games in February. Puig profiles as a very good player, one who can hit anywhere in the lineup, while making things happen on the bath paths. He also happens to be the current face of the Dodgers franchise. Stanton’s power in the middle of a lineup, however, is elite.
That said, the Dodgers are in full-on, win-now mode. Even if Puig could land them a host of players, Los Angeles isn’t in the market for the haul of prospects Puig could net. As stated previously, moving his relatively low salary won’t make it easier to keep Kershaw in SoCal. The popularity of Puig makes it all the more unlikely he’d change zip codes this winter.
As for the Marlins, why even have a franchise if you’re going to deal one of the best young power hitters in the game — one who is locked up under team control for three more seasons? As much as the team denies they’ll trade him, if I were running a team I’d keep pressing for Stanton no matter how many times Miami says no. Stanton is a special talent, one you build a team around.
Speculation — however far flung — is what makes the Hot Stove great. March is a long way away, after all.
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