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If they lose Heyward, Cardinals should seek Puig

Supposing the St. Louis Cardinals are unable to re-sign right fielder Jason Heyward, would it be the most outrageous thing ever for the team to make a trade for Yasiel Puig?

While a lot of folks think the Redbirds ought to just slide Stephen Piscotty into the starting job in right, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak has made it clear that he thinks the offense needs to be improved over the 2015 edition of the team

Taking a rookie who served as a swing player in the last third of the season and plugging him in to the spot where a .293-hitting outfielder who led his club in stolen bases doesn’t really seem like an improvement.

Best case scenario, if Piscotty turns out to be a legitimate big league starter, the Cardinals will have stayed on par by replacing one productive right fielder with another. They would have done nothing to address the clubs lack of power hitting and production from first base.

I think any thoughts of signing Yoenis Cespedes to replace Heyward ought to be punted like the ball the Mets fly chaser kicked across the outfield to allow the World Series to start with an inside the park home run.

Cespedes has a great arm and a power bat. But he’s far from a complete player. There are other places the Cardinals could turn to find a talented - yet flawed - power-hitting outfielder.

Enter Puig.

Yeah, he’s a flake. He’s a young goofball who has done a terrible job balancing responsibility with fame. But he’s also a career .294 hitter who has stolen double figures in bases two out of his three seasons in the big leagues.

He’s under contract for $7.2 million in 2016, $8.2 million in 2017 and $9.2 million in 2018. Cespedes will likely get upwards of $150 million for six or more years.

I know a lot of St. Louis fans have been rubbed the wrong way by Puig and his bat flipping not to mention the way he played his way onto the Dodgers bench.

But my argument is that a lot of folks want to see the Cardinals take a run at Cespedes if Heyward departs. Cespedes and Puig are basically the same player in terms of personality, talent and upside. But Puig has a somewhat BETTER statistical track record. Puig has a .371 career on base percentage and a .487 slugging percentage. Cespedes is two years older and has a .319 on base percentage and .486 slugging percentage. Also, let’s not forget that Puig finished in the top 20 in MVP voting in 2013 and 2014.

If it’s even close, the debate over which player to attempt to acquire is decided by the fact that Puig would cost about one-sixth as much as Cespedes.

Sold!

How many players have been big market busts only to see a career renaissance in the friendly, lower pressure atmosphere of St. Louis? How much would Puig benefit from being taught the pro way of playing the game - and preparing for the game -from Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina?

Would it wake up the 24-year-old slugger to get traded from his first team?He’s going to want a big contract when he’s a free agent at 27. So there are a lot of reasons to believe he’d be interested in turning things around.

If the Cardinals can restore Puig’s luster Piscotty can spend 2016 at first base and then take over left field when Matt Holliday’s contract is up. There’s plenty of playing time to go around.

So... That’s all nice in theory.

But would L.A. give up Puig? He was a guy being groomed two years ago to be the next face of the franchise.

According at article published by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, he’s the Dodgers player most likely to be traded. Puig and Joel Sherman of the New York Post agree that Puig’s value is at an all-time low because of his attitude problems and his lack of staying in top shape.

The Dodgers payroll bloated to $270 million last season and the new front office installed about a year ago seems determined to reel that mess in. So dumping Puig would be appealing for financial reasons, too.

So he’s probably readily available and the Cardinals front office has dived deeper into dumpsters to retrieve discarded player with much less potential.

In short, I’d most like to see the Birds re-sign Heyward and go with a guy who has a track record of being a committed, well-tuned player. But if Heyward walks, Puig would be well worth trading for if it wouldn’t cost too much talent.

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