I’ll just start this off by saying that Yasiel Puig is one of my favorite baseball players. Best player? Obviously not, but there are plenty of players that were clearly not the “best” but fans would easily go to bat for because of how exciting they are: try telling a Jack Morris fan that Mike Mussina was a better pitcher.
Nonetheless, the Dodgers did not like Puig all too much, and that’s the reason he will likely be heading in a multi-player deal to the Reds. They never particularly liked the flashiness, the bombast, pretty much all of the things that I thought of as uniquely star-studded and fantastical qualities. Puig’s defense isn’t getting better, as a -5 Outs Above Average is about the same as... Matt Kemp, who will also be in a deal that should look something like this:
Per sources, the deal will be:— Justin Rocke (@JustinRocke) December 21, 2018
To CIN: Kemp, Wood, Puig
To LAD: Bailey, RHP Josiah Gray, INF Jeter Downs.
Puig was up to a 123 wRC+ last year, and Kemp had a similarly resurgent year at 122 wRC+ with 21 home runs in 506 plate appearances.
The other player to move in this deal is Alex Wood, the oft-injured but talented starter, who is set to make something like $9 million per MLB Trade Rumors. Wood has a 115 ERA+ in Dodger Blue, but he only had 434 2⁄3 innings of work in three and a half seasons, so I doubt they care considering their embarrassment of pitching riches including Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and Kenta Maeda. Depth was never an issue.
For the Reds, the argument for such a deal, especially when it is so clearly a salary dump, is a little more odd and circuitous to where they need to be. The centerpiece, if one could even call it that, is Homer Bailey, who (and think about the deflation of free agent salaries when you look at this forthcoming number) signed a six-year, $105 million deal in 2013. He now only has $23 million with an option left on his deal (which the Dodgers certainly won’t take) with a $5 million buyout, so it’s a $28 million commitment for a replacement level pitcher.
The benefit is that the Dodgers will also receive Jeter Downs, the Derek Jeter-named prospect who has received some rave reviews as of late:
Shortstop Jeter Downs is headed to the Dodgers in the monster deal, sources tell Yahoo Sports. He really impressed scouts this year and has a chance to be a capital-G guy.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 21, 2018
The Dodgers will also receive some form of international pool money, and Josiah Gray, a low-level flyer who has been listed as a 40+ FV by FanGraphs.
For the Reds; OK, this will make them better. They still retain Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, and Scooter Gennett, all of whom along with Puig, Kemp, and Wood would allow them to eat more money to accelerate their Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene-led rebuild. They could be mediocre/good and even watchable? But they’re up against the Cubs, Brewers, and Paul Goldschmidt’s Cardinals, so the best bet here is leveraging these current major league pieces at the deadline for more prospects.
The Dodgers are on a path alright, and it’s for Bryce Harper. No team now seems more poised for this addition than them after clearing two corner outfielders, and with the Yankees or Phillies being the most likely to sign Manny Machado, there will be very little competition if Machado signs with the latter.
Remember, the Dodgers are only in this race now because they cleared salary; they are under possibly stringent debt service rules after mortgaging value to acquire the team and taking on more debt for an ever-higher payroll, so making this move likely clears about $15.5 million in salary (depending on cash payments, and tax will be affected by AAV). Jeff Passan reports the following...
For those shipping the Dodgers and Bryce Harper: After the trade, the Dodgers' luxury-tax payroll is going to be more than $180M, including the money they're sending to Cincinnati. If they want to stay under, Harper isn't happening. If that's not a concern, it's a possibility.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 21, 2018
...so it’s very possible they would need to clear more to add even, say, AJ Pollock. That all depends on whether keeping to $180 million is a legally-binding fiduciary responsibility, which was described by Sheryl Ring at FanGraphs as not being so considering they were merely projections and not hard-and-fast rules. Time will tell if they clear even more money, but for now, the highest payroll in baseball will likely remain so if they ink Harper, as they cement themselves even further as the strongest team in the National League for the third year running.
All I have to say is LOL.