Yasiel Puig becomes a free agent at the end of this season. One of the decisions the front office has to make is what do with him. The Reds have a few options. They could try to trade Puig to a team looking for an OF (ahem, Cleveland) or a big RH-bat off the bench. The Reds could try to keep him next year and beyond by negotiating an extension. They could do nothing, planning to make a Qualifying Offer to Puig at the end of the season.
[Qualifying Offer? Short version: Reds offer Puig a 1-year deal for about $18 million. If Puig accepts, he plays for the Reds one more year at that amount. If Puig turns down the Reds offer, he becomes a free agent and the club will receive a compensatory draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B which follows the second round. Learn the details of what a Qualifying Offer means. ]
Or the Reds could just let Puig walk at the end of the 2019 season. We asked a panel of Redleg Nation writers what they would do, including describing the terms of the extension they would offer Puig if that was their preferred course. Here’s what they said.
Question: What should the Reds do with Yasiel Puig?
Jeff Carr: I would see if he’d be receptive to a 2-year, $30 million deal. I don’t think there would be a ton of return value, if the Reds were to trade him before the deadline (at least no more than they gave up to acquire him in December) and the more I look at the option of a qualifying offer the more it seems like a fall back. He’s a solid bat (.278 career batting average) and defender for this team and, at least apparently, is a good teammate. Plus, it’s not like he’s old. Sign him for a few years, so they can figure out Trammell’s role, and stabilize a third of the outfield.
Chad Dotson: There are a bunch of different ways the Reds could approach their decision-making when it comes to Yasiel Puig’s contract status. But before you consider any of them, you have to recognize one incontrovertible fact: If the Reds trade the Wild Horse at the trade deadline, a large segment of Cincinnati’s fan base will revolt. It’ll look like the same old Reds, dealing a popular player — for what? — and opening a huge hole in a lineup that is already struggling to score runs.
I’d be attempting to swing a bigger deal that may or may not include Puig. Puig alone is unlikely to return much on the trade market, I’m guessing, but if the Reds could acquire the ever-elusive “controllable” hitter, I wouldn’t hesitate to include Puig in that deal. But I’m also happy with keeping him around all season and attempting to sign him to a contract extension. Discussion of specific numbers kinda bores me because I’m of the opinion that the Reds can afford whatever they want to afford, so I’d love to see Puig signed for 4 years at whatever the market rate is. If you can’t swing that deal, make Puig a qualifying offer for 2020 and see what happens from there.
Matt Habel: So much for the new and improved Reds outfield. While Puig struggled to start the year I do expect him to continue to be a key contributor for at least a few more years. Now that he has gotten his overall production above average for the year, his trade value should be pretty decent. However, Dick Williams recent comments about wanting to add to the current squad imply the haul would have to be pretty decent to let anyone go. That said, it seems unlikely Puig gets traded in the next month.
Extending Puig would go a long way towards finding a strong outfield lineup for next year and beyond. If Puig walks and Senzel gets moved back to 2B, Winker and Ervin would be the only immediate options. With Trammell still at least a year away, a qualifying offer might be the lowest risk option that could buy the team more time and probably get Puig a higher AAV amount than a multi year deal would. If he declines, an extra draft pick is never a bad thing. My preference would be:
Bill Lack: I’d like to see the Reds offer Puig an extension. He’s 28 and should be in the midst of his peak career years. I’m not sure that he’d be willing to sign with the Reds without testing the waters, but I think they should make the effort. I also believe they should make him a qualifying offer. The first would make him know the Reds want him back, the second would either give them Puig for a year (hopefully while they find a long term outfielder) or, if he signs elsewhere, a draft pick to compensate them for his loss. Plus there is always the possibility that, with the uncertainty of the free agent market, the Reds could make him the best offer or that he decides he’s not going to do better than playing in Cincinnati.
Puig’s comments, while in the midst of his current contract, admitting that he didn’t always play as hard as he could, concern me. An extension could mean that the Reds could end up facing some of the same type issues the Dodgers were dealing with Puig, but I’m hoping that he’s matured and wants to be the best player he can possibly be, which is a pretty good player.
Jason Linden: Trading him at the deadline is a non-starter, I think. Unless the bottom falls out for the Reds over the next two weeks, they’re going to enter August in some form of contention and this is an organization that needs a solid season to build on. Now, what to do after the season is interesting. It depends entirely on what they think of Aristides Aquino and Taylor Trammell. The Reds need an outfielder next year and there is not going to be anyone else on the free agent market better than Yasiel Puig (though trades can always happen as well, I suppose). Given that second base is decidedly up in the air, two outfielders wouldn’t be a bad idea, since that would allow Senzel to slide to second. Now, what kind of contract should the Reds offer Puig? I have absolutely no idea. The market from the last two years has completely derailed the free agency process. It seems like Puig, the notoriously slow starter is headed toward a 2.5-3 WAR season and that’s what’s reasonable to expect of him for the next several years. Under normal conditions, he’d probably get a 5-year deal worth about $100M. Now? Less than that, I’d guess, but I genuinely have no idea.
Jim Walker: Hopefully the Reds are trying right now to extend Puig. He brings a needed blend of speed, power and defense to their outfield that is not clearly present in the near term future from their farm system. At age 29, he should not entail a serious risk on a 4 or 5 year deal at market value; and, he could be dealt in a couple of years if youngsters coming up through the farm blossom at the MLB level.
However, concurrently the team needs to be covering its options by looking into what Puig would bring on the trade market at the deadline as a rental if he cannot extended by then.
Alternatively the Reds could keep Puig through the end of the season and make a Qualifying Offer to him. They would be betting that Puig would decline the offer and sign a lucrative free agency contract thus qualifying the Reds for a compensatory draft pick next June which in the long run could be more valuable than the rental level return from trading him. Or if Puig accepted the offer at least the clock would be reset for the Reds to replay the scenario all over again next year while paying him an amount that looks to be close to his market value.
There is risk for the Reds with this alternative. They would end up with nothing for Puig if he remained unsigned up to the draft next June like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel this past year.
Regardless of the risk with the qualifying offer scenario, I would not sell short on Puig. Unless somebody makes a very strong offer ahead of the trade deadline, which addresses a Reds need, I would follow the qualifying offer route if he is not extended ahead of the deadline.
Redleg Nation, what would you do?