The Los Angeles Dodgers' Outfield DilemmaThe Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be faced with an interesting decision in the very near future, as injured outfielders Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are set to come off the disabled list and rejoin the team. The return of these two players wouldn't be so intriguing if it wasn't for the success of Yasiel Puig, who was called up from the minor leagues last week as an outfield replacement.
Not only has Puig been the Dodgers' best player for the past week and a half, he is making a strong case to remain with the big club for the long haul. In his first week at the highest level, Puig received National League Player of the Week honors after belting four home runs and making spectacular defensive plays in right field. Entering June 11, the Cuban defector was hitting a cool .500 (16-for-32).
So what happens when Kemp and Crawford return? For starters, there will be four highly paid outfielders for three outfield spots. This year, Kemp and Crawford are both owed $20 million while Andre Ethier is set to make $13.5 million. Although Puig is only due $3.7 million this season, his seven-year contract will eventually be worth $42 million.
It would appear that the odd man out will be Puig, considering he has spent the majority of this season in the minor leagues. There's also the unwritten baseball rule in which a player should not lose his job because of an injury. But how can Los Angeles demote Puig? The Cuban defector has literally been hitting everything in sight — Puig's four home runs have come on a total of six pitches with two of them coming on the first pitch. He's also brought a buzz to Dodger Stadium not felt since the Manny Ramirez era.
On the other hand, the regulars like Kemp and Ethier are not producing. The tenured duo that has patrolled the Dodgers' outfield for over six years has combined for an uninspiring .240 average and only six home runs this season. Crawford is the only outfielder that has shown any consistency at the plate. All three of their large contracts mentioned above will make it difficult for the Dodgers to trade any of them.
Although not discussed last week when I questioned Puig's promotion, this forthcoming dilemma is just another reason why the Dodgers should have waited to call him up. Puig has exceeded the hype so far, but due to poor front office decision-making, he could be sent back down as quickly as he arrived.