On June 29, 2012 the Los Angeles Dodgers made their first big international splash when they signed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million contract. Along with the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers expressed interest in Puig after he hit .330 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI along with a .430 OBP with Cienfuegos in the Cuba Series during the 2011-12 season.
Puig was the third Cuban outfielder to sign a deal after Jorge Soler signed for nine-years and $30 million while Yoenis Cespedes signed for four-years and $30 million. When asked today about what his peers thought of the Puig deal on AM 570 Radio, Dodgers president Stan Kasten gave an honest answer:
Everyone who didn’t know much about him thought it was nuts. Remember, Jorge Soler signed for $32 million so it wasn’t that extreme and our people that he was better. There are differences of opinion and we were brand new. We had a cupboard that was brand new down below and this was our last chance to get a premium talent. Our top scout said, “Stan, he’s going to be an All-Star”.
In 2013, the Dodgers didn’t expect to see Puig since they had high-price outfielders Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. However, injuries forced the then 22-year-old to get his first shot at the big leagues. Puig made his big league debut on June 3 against the San Diego Padres and promptly hit eight home runs in his first month.
With the Dodgers season spiraling out of control, Puig sparked the team and was a key to the team turning things around. Things weren’t always smooth sailing for the young outfielder as he got criticized for overthrowing cutoff men and running into outs on the base paths.
Puig finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and was a candidate for the All-Star Game, but lost in the Final Fan voting. Things didn’t get easier for him during the off-season as he was booked on his second reckless driving arrest in eight months and continually has people questioning his maturity.
This season the Dodgers are expecting Puig to have another exciting season and continue to show everyone their investment paid off.
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