The Reds made a huge splash this offseason with a star studded trade, sending Homer Bailey and prospects to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and Yasiel Puig. Immediate reception of the trade was positive from Reds fans, but as the 2019 season got underway, the Reds side of the equation took a turn for the worse. Kemp was released. Wood, injured in Spring Training, hasn’t thrown a pitch in a Reds uniform. Farmer has been a nice piece off the bench, and has provided some roster flexibility with his ability to play Catcher, but not much else. And through the first few months of the season, Yasiel Puig was hitting well below his career numbers to the point of mediocrity.

But hold on friends! Puig, in signature dramatic fashion, has come back with a vengeance on the 2019 season. Since June 10th through the writing of this sentence, the Wild Horse has literally been the best hitter in the league,  hitting .388/.430/.806, good for a wRC+ of 210 (h/t Chad Ulysses Dotson). His hot streak has made his overall numbers on the season skyrocket, and should he continue this trend, he’ll easily surpass his career numbers in the second half of the season. 

The Reds roster has a slight outfield problem. Top prospect Taylor Trammell has all but stopped playing Center Field in the minor leagues, perhaps because the front office isn’t sold on his arm. Other prospects such as Aristides Aquino, Josh VanMeter and Brian O’Grady have had spectacular seasons so far, but could just be a flash in the pan. Scott Schebler, once thought to perhaps have what it takes to be a starter in Right Field, has seemingly had his ability to hit a baseball sucked out of him by aliens from Moron Mountain. 

So is Yasiel Puig the answer in Right Field for the “Next Good Reds TeamTM”? How might the Reds tame the Wild Horse, and lock him into the stables of an extension? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

Contract Extension

Contract extensions have been a boon for the Reds in recent years. This front office is very good at recognizing talent on the roster and locking it down for multiple years. Although Tucker Barnhart has struggled offensively this season, he still provides a level of leadership behind the plate that the pitching staff seems to respect immensely, and his defensive numbers were trending upward prior to his injury. Eugenio Suarez has one of the most valuable contracts in the league, and is starting to heat up in his own right. And, although the major players have changed since the time of the signing, let us not forget about Joey Votto’s contract, and how he’s been worth every single dollar (and then some).

So it’s easy to see why fans are clamoring for the club to get a deal done with Puig before he can test Free Agency. So why not do it? It certainly makes sense from a financial standpoint. The team is the lone bidder, and typically has easy access to the player and his management in order to get a deal done. Two extensions for similar players – Aaron Hicks and George Springer – have been good for both the player and the team. Let’s take a look at those deals:

As you can see, these deals are very different. In the Hicks deal, the Yankees are very clearly trying to lock up a young talent for a long time. They’ve signed him to a modest salary through 2025, his age 35 season, with a team option for 2026. That team option is $2M higher than the AAV of the rest of the contract, and serves as a good goal for Hicks to strive for.

Springer’s contract, on the other hand, is a master stroke by the Astros. In extending Springer, they make him happy by giving him some job stability and a cool $12M paycheck each year, something the team didn’t have to do considering Springer’s arbitration situation. The contract only pays Springer through 2019, at which point he’ll have his 2020 salary decided through the arbitration process. He’s still under control by the Astros, but his 2020 salary won’t be set until this Winter. 

But why is this ultimately a win for the Astros? They can cut bait or decide to continue to play ball well before the Yankees will have that opportunity with Hicks. If the team decides they’d like to continue to pay the 30 year old Springer to play baseball for them at the contract’s end, they’re still in the driver’s seat for an additional extension. However, as most smart baseball clubs know, players tend to take a dive at 30 years old. Springer is certainly an exception to this rule, having already accrued 3.2 fWAR at the time this article is being written, but if he had been plagued by injuries, or had been affected by the same colorful aliens who got to Scott Schebler, the Astros have the ability to simply walk away.

Both contracts above have their merits, and I could see the Reds signing Puig to either of these deals. If I’m the Reds, and I can get Puig to agree to a deal structured similarly to Springer’s, I take that check to his locker and run. Unfortunately talks between the team and Puig have yet to begin, and all indications point to Puig being destined for testing Free Agency. Time will tell, but in the meantime, let’s assume the Wild Horse breaks free from his reins and gallops through the open field of Free Agency.

Free Agent Signing

The free agent market has been a weird one for the past few seasons. Teams aren’t afraid to leave the table if star players are demanding more money than their market value determines they’re worth. That hasn’t stopped guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado from getting paid, but as out there as Puig is, he isn’t close to that stratosphere.

However, there is some precedence for contracts for guys similar to Puig’s ability level. Last offseason A.J. Pollock and Andrew McCutchen both signed Free Agent deals. It’s important to note that both of these players are older than Puig, and both of them are likely past their prime, whereas Puig is likely right smack in the middle of his. Let’s take a look at those deals:

It should be noted that both of these deals are loaded down with incentives. Let’s take a look at Pollock’s for example. His deal features a 2022 opt-out that becomes available if he accrues 1,000 plate appearances over the course of the 2020-2021 seasons (2 years), OR 1,450 plate appearances over the course of the 2019-2021 seasons (3 years). An additional player option is added on to the end for the 2023 season. Both opt-outs have a $5M buyout. The 2023 buyout escalates depending on the amount of plate appearances in the 2022 season, as well as MVP voting results from the 2019-2022 seasons, up to a possible total of an extra $25M should he win the MVP award in 2019, ‘20, ‘21, and ‘22 seasons.

Needless to say, you’re right if you’d think the Reds would rather sign Puig to an extension rather than duke things out with his agent in Free Agency. On top of some of these ludicrous and technical add-ons, the Reds will also have to contend with 29 other teams who may want to bring Puig in to bolster their offense. 

Because of all the negotiating, Free Agent deals have the high probability of being longer and more expensive than contract extensions. While not yet 30, it’s likely any Free Agent deal Puig signs with the Reds will bring him well into his 30s, at which point it’s likely the Reds will have better options arriving either from the farm system or through other means. That being said, I wouldn’t be opposed to a contract laid out similarly to McCutchen’s with the Phillies.

Qualifying Offer

This is where things get really interesting, and (if possible) more complicated. As most readers here know, teams have the opportunity to offer a one-year ‘Qualifying Offer’ contract to all players with expiring contracts at the end of the season. This Qualifying Offer is the mean of the top 125 salaries in baseball, which should land right around $18M. This happens before Free Agency, but allows for the players to talk to other clubs to get a sense of the market for them. If the player accepts the deal, the club signs him to a 1 year, ~$18M contract immediately. If he refuses, he enters the Free Agent market and the team is rewarded with a compensatory draft pick, either between the first and second or second and third rounds of the following year’s MLB Draft. 

Offering a Qualifying Offer to Puig is right in the center of the decision making matrix for the Reds. A QO for Puig is at the same time a lot to pay for a player, but potentially just right for his skill set. It’s also at the same time too short of a contract (you’d like to get him for his entire primer), but it might also be nice to not be locked in to a long term agreement with a player as volatile as Puig. 

It should be noted that the fewest ever Qualifying Offers were made last offseason, as a whopping 7 players were offered QO’s. Only one (Dodger pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu) accepted his deal. The other players were clearly going to get more money in Free Agent deals than they were offered in their QO. Puig is right there in that sweet spot. If his second half continues to see him hit as good or better than his career numbers, I think the Qualifying Offer is a no-brainer for the Reds. If the team decides Puig is worth one year at $18M, you can’t lose in this situation. If Puig accepts, great! The Reds have a solid player for the 2020 season. If he doesn’t accept – great! The Reds have an extra (somewhat high) pick in the 2020 draft.

Ultimately, extending the QO is the decision I would make with Yasiel Puig if a short extension along the lines of George Springer’s is off the table. Again, contingent on him being a good hitter for the rest of the season, I would put things in his hands. Want to give it another run? Great, let’s sign the QO and we’ll do it again next year. If not, it was fun while it lasted, and the Reds will be able to make additional offseason moves accordingly. 

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If you were running the team, what would you do with Yasiel Puig? Let us know below!

33 Responses

  1. Colt Holt

    Four year deal easy. Target $50-55 total contract value

    • Eric

      That number won’t get it done. I would offer 2/37.5 with a mutual option for 23 million. First year 17 million, second year 20.5 million. Those are the numbers his ego is going to need.

      • Steve Mancuso

        That’s an overpay for a barely 2-WAR outfielder. I do like the duration, but too high AAV. The free agent market for OF has been soft the past two off-seasons. Depends on how he finishes the season, obviously, but 2 years at $12 million might get it done.

      • Scott C

        I personally would like a three year deal over a four year deal, but would be okay with a 4 year deal if the average salary was a little less than a what a three year deal would take. I think Colt you are a little low but Eric I think you are somewhat high. Somewhere in between there would work.

  2. Chris

    Votto contract great and worth every penny then some??? Seriously?? That asinine contract and its length for our small market club has killed our payroll and has everyone thinking 1b is locked up for 4 1/2 more years. It’s crazy dumb. He had mediocre year for the money last year and he’s below league average in OPS this year. Terrible. And you love that we have him locked up 4 more full seasons. Dumb.

  3. Steve Mancuso

    Puig is all the way through arbitration and close to free agency. That puts him in a completely different situation to Springer, who was three years from free agency and just negotiating guaranteed salary. Players as close as Puig to free agency don’t give home town discounts just because only one team can negotiate. Apples and oranges.

    The Reds would have to believe Puig is a 2 WAR player to take the risk of a QO. Puig has been right around that for a couple years and will end up near 2 WAR this season.

    An extension longer than two years would be a huge gamble.

    Can’t fall in love with players just because we see them all the time. That’s been a crippling weakness for this organization (from ownership down). The free agent market for OF has been super soft the last two seasons.

  4. Chris Holbert

    I would think that 3/60 is not out of the range. It cold be like 17,20,23, and have some sort of team option for year 4. As high as the Reds may be on what is “allegedly” coming from Louisville, any list of the top baseball prospects, has three, maybe four in the top 100, and they are still prospects, and probably at least two years away. There is nothing coming to provide what he can, and they have that money.

  5. Optimist

    In a related note, check out the starter, making his first appearance in AA, listed for tonight’s Tulsa Drillers game.

  6. matthew hendley

    OK, slightly complicated- An extension is preferred but in absence of a QO is guaranteed.
    7- total years- Opt out after 3 Series of options start after 4.
    1. 15 Mil Total Guarantee
    2. 20 Same
    3. 20 Same
    So at this point you are at his (pause)Age 31 season. He is a highly motivated player playing for an opt out. If he Opts out he does so roughly the same time that Votto and suarez contracts are ending as well.
    4. 22 Million total- 17 Guaranteed 5 On incentives
    Reds get an option for this year if they do not utilize it then Puig walk with the obligatory buy out. If the Reds pick it up then
    5. 22 Million total- 15 Guaranteed 7 on incentives
    6. 22 Million total- 12 Guaranteed 10 on incentives
    7. 22 Million total – 10 Guaranteed 12 on incentives.

    So a 3/ 45 or a 4/ 67 or 7/ 143 extension that could potentially be as low as 114 Million.

    The numbers can be played around with a bit, but the use of incentives and vesting options can counter the argument that he has a bad attitude etc etc, and ensure he comes out motivated. This also factors in his closeness to free agency and his current age. It even factors in the Reds window, if you can call it such a thing.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Yasiel Puig is a 2-WAR player. Maybe 2.5. Michael Brantley, a 3.5 WAR player, signed a 2-year contract for $12m AAV last year. Your numbers might have made sense 10 years ago, but not today.

      • Pete

        Yes sir.

        I don’t want the team to overpay for the excitement he brings, pay only for the production he provides.

      • matthew hendley

        2017- 3.8 WAR
        2018- 2.7 WAR

        yea…even with a little trouble early in the season he is clearing 2.5 easy.

        Lets go look at the similarity scores:
        Springer, Pollack, Dickerson
        Projects to be active through 35 Larry Walker comp.

        Michael Brantley also was chasing a ring, that is also a discount. Just not one that Cincinnati can provide. If he wasn’t, he should fire his agent.

        The incentives/ guarantee balance can be tweaked. But the total does need to clear the expected QO to be competitive.

      • matthew hendley

        and pete, including incentives on the back end of the contract ensures that he does get paid for what he produces.

      • Pete

        Matthew – all I’ll say is It would be good if Mancuso was doing the negotiating. I agree with him the Reds get too personally invested in individual players. It’s perfectly understandable for fans but for the FO,
        it’s poison. Reds should spend money as they see fit but I wonder sometimes if they really know what they are getting. 4-5 years in the basement should have all of us wondering.

    • matthew hendley

      16.5 AAV – 20.4 AAV Range for all 7 years. And for a 20.4 AAV, that means that Puig has been playing at a All Star/MVP vote getting level the entire year.

      So not seeing it as unreasonable.

      • matthew hendley

        replace ‘/MVP vote getting level the entire year’ with ‘the entire length of the contract’ my bad.

  7. jreis

    This is going to be a tough decision. the thing with or farm system in A and AA ball we really don’t have any power hitters. we have some really good athletes but no power hitters. there is nobody there that can do what Puig does at the plate.

    without Puig as our right fielder we will really have a “small ball” team with Trammel, Senzel, Siri, Ervin, winker and the like. Can the reds win with a small ball approach with Suarez as your major power hitter in the line up?

  8. Big Ed

    Deciding what to do with Puig also involves the Reds’ analyzing what to do with AAA hitters Josh VanMeter and Aristides Aquino. But that, in turn, involves what to make of the juicier ball at AAA this year.

    VanMeter started his run about this time last year, and had a second-half OPS about .300 more than his first half, and has really taken off this year. Aquino had trouble with the adjustment from high A to AA in 2017, and had a big spike in his strikeout rate, up to 29% his first AA year. The last half of last year, though, his strikeout rate had fallen to about 22%. Aquino is One Large Man, and he has a pretty simple swing that has a bit of Eugenio Suarez to it. I think you can make the case that the juicy AAA ball does not have a lot to do with VanMeter and Aquino spiking this year.

    I think that they need to good handle on what they have with Aquino before committing too much money to Puig. Aquino has played CF in 5 recent games at Louisville, for what that it worth.

    Gennett is almost certainly gone after this year, because next year Senzel or VanMeter could handle second.

  9. Armo21

    Well done Jordan! I am finally starting to appreciate your style and arguments. You have become an “acquired taste” for me on RLN. Please take that as a sincere compliment.

    I try to sign Puig to an extension based on Steve’s 2.5 WAR estimate, if not I make the QO. Guy has been great teammate, great in RF (maybe gold glove) and great on the bases. He is fun to watch play the game. Guy wears his heart on his sleeve, passionate, hustles….really easy to root for. And, he has been in the middle of winning LA teams the prior 4 years. So, he knows what it takes to get there.

    Completely not what I expected when Reds traded for him, thought the bat would play up but everything else would be a headache.

    Part of how I would fill out my roster involves team chemistry and Puig is a guy I would want on my team, but would probably hate to play against him. Not sure what it will take to keep him here, but would risk–3 yrs with an option after watching him play the first half. Not sold on what the Reds have in MiLB outfielders. Winker/Kemp make good platoon in LF w/ Senzel in CF add in Puig and you have veteran stability still in his prime as the other 3 should start to come into their own.

  10. burtgummer

    I’d be surprised if Aquino isn’t the starting RF next year after Puig leaves

    • Bill H.

      Right there with you. Time to let the kids play . . . Aquino, JVM, and maybe even Tyler Stephenson given the catching situation. I know folks will disagree; but, I’d like to at least see a sample size-like opportunity at Louisville with Siri and Trammell (this year).

  11. Roger Garrett

    Puig is interesting.Reds just never seem to get it right regardless of what they do.The years concern me more then the money.As fans we can say spend this or sign this player etc etc.Just for fun I wonder if the Reds had signed Scooter for lets say 3 years at 8-10 mil,what would we be saying.Probably we would say we lost half of this year and got nothing and hope and pray he returns to form the next 70 games.Same with Wood who we paid a bunch and has yet to pitch.Its just a gamble at age 28 or 29 to sign anybody to a lengthy contract and you can bet that’s what all of us would want and so does Puig.I would not go any more then 2 years at 12-15 per and maybe an option in year 3.

  12. Old-school

    Puig is doing what the Reds paid him to do- albeit 2 months late- but he’s carrying the team and hitting HR. He’s 29 next season. The reds can afford him and an OF of Puig/Ervin/Senzel/ Winker is a good unit. The reds have done a great job of improving but also getting more flexibility with payroll and making good decisions- not signing Cozart and Gennett to 40 million extensions but signing gray and Suarez and R Iglesias.

    They are going to need bullpen and catching investments and a starting pitcher. With Joey Votto at 0.2 fWAR and owed still $100000000 more, I suspect they will rely on young position players and value based FA signings like Iglesias, Deitrich this year and not give Puig a big contract.

    • Mike

      Great job? Not really. Only 2 games better than last year. In last place in a mediocre division. Dispassionate group of guys. Votto anchor hanging around their neck. Reluctance to play young guys. Better pitching. Worse hitting. Same losing.

      • Old-school

        When the 2018 season ended, the Reds had zero chance of competing in 2019. None. They are much better than 2018. 2 games better ? That’s an arbitrary endpoint.
        Votto anchor is biggest untold story of the year. He’s 0.2 fWAR.
        You raise a good point. Any ideas on how to fix the hitting?

  13. Roger Garrett

    Good points as to what the Reds have done good regarding contracts

  14. RandyW

    Puig in right, senzel in center, some comination of winker/ervin in right. Dietrich at 2nd, resign iglesias at ss. What? This offense is atrocious! Why would we want to go into 2020 with the same offense. Trade puig if you can get a decent return. Otherwise, do qo. They need upgrade at c,2b,ss,lf and rf besides the fact that votto will continue to decline. Everyone should be available to trade if the return helps the reds in the near future. Look at what the rays got for archer . This offense has major holes and their top prospects are vastly underperforming this year so dick wagner needs to be very active this offseason.

  15. doofus

    I fear that once again ownership and the FO will “decide not to decide” to do anything about the players that are free agents after this season by the trade deadline. Herein, lies the great problem with the Reds under Castellini.

    *Quote attributed to one of our own from this board. I cannot take credit and apologize for not remembering who it was.

    • Bill J

      Deciding not to decide is a decision.