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The Dodgers, Yasiel Puig and the four-outfielders puzzle

June 20, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • What will the Dodgers do with Yasiel Puig after Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford come off the disabled list?
What will the Dodgers do with Yasiel Puig after Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford… (Mike Stobe / Getty Images )

Hmm, four starting outfielders. That sounds like trouble. Like somebody is going to be upset about not playing at some point.

I suppose it qualifies as one of those “good problems to have” routines, better to have too much than too little. Kinda like Bill Gates.

And this potential dilemma has yet to rear its head, what with two of the outfielders – Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford – still on the disabled list nursing strained hamstrings.

But they are recovering and the day is coming soon when Manager Don Mattingly will fill out his lineup card and either Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Crawford or Kemp will have to sit.

This predicament was borne via the sensational debut of Puig, the Cuban defector who absolutely lit it up during spring training but was shipped to double-A Chattanooga partially because the outfield was full.

It still is, of course, or will be soon, but Puig’s play has been so sensational in the past two weeks as the outfield replacement, no one is even pretending he will return to the minors once Kemp and Crawford are back.

“I think there’s enough playing time for everybody in the outfield,” Mattingly said last week.

The Dodgers have almost $400 million still invested in their foursome -- Kemp ($160 million), Crawford ($105 million), Ethier ($85 million), Puig ($42 million) – so when all are healthy, some expensive talent it going to be sitting.

An obvious solution is to trade one – Ethier’s name is normally first suggested – but that may be unwise given the team’s difficulty to say healthy, Kemp still struggling to come back from shoulder surgery and Puig’s limited test results.

So when they are all healthy, one will have to sit. Mattingly can rotate all he likes – Crawford and Ethier can sit against a lefty, Kemp or Puig vs. a righty – but somebody will have to take a seat. And if it’s a significant game on his day off, that outfielder doesn’t figure to be happy.

Ethier has played a fine center field in Kemp’s absence and shown signs of turning things around at the plate, batting .350 (14 for 40) in his last 11 games. Crawford might have been their best player (.301, .470 slugging) before getting hurt. And despite Kemp’s struggles (.251/.335), he remains ultra talented, not to mention their largest investment.

All while Puig has simply been electric during his 15 games.

Soon, though, each may be getting more rest that he likes. Hopefully winning eases the awkwardness. Each acts like a grown-up. The greater good survives, etc.

These are some supersized egos, however, so nothing is guaranteed. Even if all have the best intentions. It could prove trouble or the greatest thing to happen all season. It certainly figures to be worth watching.

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