Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig can’t afford to be picky. After a tough 2016, in which he hit just .263/.323/.416 and was demoted to Triple-A, Puig enters spring training with plenty of uncertainty. Once considered a rising star, Puig may not even make the Dodgers depending on how he performs in March. It’s a precipitous fall for a player who received MVP votes just a few years ago.
Despite his recent struggles, Puig still believes in his abilities. The 26-year-old outfielder told reporters Monday he wants to be a starter again. If that opportunity fails to materialize with the Dodgers, well, Puig is keeping his options open.
The first part of Puig’s statement shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every major-league player wants to be a starter. That’s just the nature of competitive sports. Nobody wants to sit on the bench.
It’s the “somewhere else” part that deserves more attention. Puig’s relationship with the Dodgers has always been on shaky ground, but things boiled over last season. Due to his poor performance, Puig was demoted to Triple-A in August. Shortly after being sent down, Puig angered Dodgers’ brass by posting videos of a team party on Snapchat. At the time, it looked like Puig had played his last game with Los Angeles.
But that wasn’t the case. Puig eventually returned to the majors in September. He performed well down the stretch, hitting .281/.338/.561 over 65 plate appearances. That was good enough to earn him some playing time for Los Angeles during the playoffs.
The late-season success wasn’t enough to fully mend Puig’s relationship with the Dodgers. While the trade rumors have quieted, they still exist. Puig is aware of that, and it’s refreshing to see him acknowledge them here. Most players would simply ignore the issue or give some cliché quote about “giving the Dodgers 100 percent.” Puig didn’t do that.
Because it’s Puig, he’ll likely face more scrutiny for his comments than he deserves. He’ll be called selfish or entitled because he wants to start. He’ll be called whiny and a distraction because he brought up the possibility of a trade.
The truth is: He was being realistic. Puig knows his current situation is questionable at best. For the first time in his career, he’s fighting for a roster spot. Even if he performs well, the Dodgers proved last season that they don’t really need him. Like any other player, Puig wants to prove he still has the skills that made him an All-Star in the past. If the Dodgers won’t let him do that, he’ll take any opportunity he can get.
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