LOS ANGELES, CA - General view of Dodger Stadium as Dodger players warm up in left field and the grounds crew prepares the infield dirt and home plate area before the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Dodgers committed a hefty sum to Cuban outfield prospect Yasel Puig, narrowly beating the coming international-spending restrictions.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have new owners. Those new owners have expressed a desire to spend money. The problem is that the team switched hands officially in May. There's not a lot to do in May. There isn't a maître d' you can slip a $20 to that would get Prince Fielder to reconsider.
There are international prospects, though. And it was a little surprising that the Chicago Cubs ran away with the Jorge Soler competition without a lot of noise from the Dodgers. That seemed like a good way to make a statement, and Soler was the last of his kind.
No. There is another. And that line works better if you picture Magic Johnson saying it in a Yoda voice. According to MLB.com, the Dodgers have signed Cuban outfield prospect Yasel Puig:
The outfielder is expected to garner a multiyear Major League deal that rivals the nine-year, $30 million contract that fellow Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler received from the Cubs earlier this month and Yoenis Cespedes' four-year, $36 million deal with the A's in February.
The initial version of that story had the deal worth $40 million, but apparently that was premature. Or maybe it's more! $126 million! Gimme the Werth, he said! But it's probably close to $40 million. This should probably be the last signing before the international-free-agent restrictions coming in July.
This isn't how it was supposed to work. We were supposed to hear whispers about Puig's undeniable talent. We were supposed to be spoon-fed Puig rumors, with teams jockeying in and out of the lead for his services. We were supposed to send 49,938 tweets to the different writers at Baseball Ameríca, asking for a scouting report. And when we finally decided that Puig was a player that every team simply could not be without, that's when he should get the huge, surprising contract.
The Dodgers figured, nah. Takes too long. Here's a sack of cash.
Puig is obviously a scouting legend, right? A guy who makes scouts drool? To Baseball Ameríca:
Reports from scouts on 21-year-old Cuban corner outfielder Yasel Puig have been underwhelming. The Rangers have been the only team linked to Puig, though their senior-level decision makers were not in attendance at his recent workout in Mexico, where teams have reported that his conditioning appears to be an issue.
Teams have no performance data or game video to work off from Puig in more than a year because he was suspended for the 2011-12 season in Serie Nacional. The last time any scouts could have legally evaluated Puig was in June 2011 in Rotterdam, where scouts seemed lukewarm at best on him.
Oh. The suspension was for trying to defect -- obviously an effective punishment -- so don't read too much into that. But Puig lacks the overwhelming scouting report that Cespedes and Jorge Soler had, it would seem. At least, there isn't the same consensus. Still, if you asked 30 scouting directors if they'd like Puig in their system, I'd wager that they'd all answer in the affirmative. It's just the money that's the surprise
FanGraphs notes some statistical similarities between Puig and Cespedes when they looked at their respective Cuban numbers at the same age.
The obvious difference is the significantly higher home run total from Cespedes. It’s that level of power that has allowed Cespedes to transition directly to the major leagues and post a .222 ISO as a 26-year-old without any experience in the United States.
The remainder of the numbers — the on-base percentage, strikeout-to-walk ratio, etc. — are comparable. Even the doubles are comparable. Puig reportedly has above-average speed and was once considered the "fastest player in Cuban baseball" before defecting, so it’s not overly surprising that Puig would collect more triples than Cespedes.
Cespedes' instant success has been something of a surprise. The tools were obvious, but the way he leveraged them in to production right away was impressive. Puig had similar numbers to Cespedes in Cuba. It's not a perfect way to make an evaluation, but it's a start.
It'll be a while before we see Puig, most likely. He's 21, the age of most college draftees, so it's likely that he's on the same timetable. If the initial $40 million report is close, though, the Dodgers probably aren't thinking he's a long-term project. They were looking to make a splash, and here's the first one.
Now get busy on that pronunciation practice, because that's a great name. That's at least a 55 on the 20-to-80 names scale. Maybe a 60.