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Yasiel Puig Says He 'Didn't Work Hard' in the Past Due to Being Under Contract

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2019

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig runs off the field during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Cleveland Indians Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

With offseason acquisition Yasiel Puig entering his walk year, the Cincinnati Reds can expect big things out of the 2014 All-Star.

In an in-depth profile by ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez, the charismatic outfielder revealed that his work ethic is going to be much different than in years past, given that he is looking to cash in during free agency next offseason.

"I never worked hard," Puig told Gonzalez. "Maybe that's the reason why I didn't have my better years. ... The last couple years, I didn't work hard because I still have a contract to go. Now I think I'll work hard more than any year in my life."

Puig signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June 2012. He took the league by storm while propelling his team to the postseason as a rookie by hitting .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs and 21 doubles with 42 RBI in 104 games. That not only helped him finish runner-up in National League Rookie of the Year voting, but it also helped him receive NL MVP votes despite the fact he didn't debut until June.

He followed that strong debut up with another solid performance in 2014, when he earned his first All-Star selection by hitting .296 with 16 home runs, 37 doubles, nine triples and 69 RBI.

Since then, he has not had the easiest of times in the big leagues. His average dropped to .255 in 2015 as he dealt with a hamstring injury. In 2016, he hit just .263 with 11 home runs and was ultimately demoted to Triple-A to "improve him as a player and person."

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Puig responded to a tumultuous 2016 season by clubbing a combined 51 dingers over the past two seasons, including a career-high 28 in 2017. His average, though, has not topped .267 the past four years.

As his time in Los Angeles neared an end, the right-handed slugger's playing time declined against southpaws, as he managed just a .209 average against left-handers last season.

Puig should get plenty of opportunities with a Reds club that is looking for its first winning season since 2013. Whether it's in center field or left field, manager David Bell figures to pencil Puig's name into the lineup on a daily basis.

The offseason trade that sent Puig to Cincinnati provides a nice change of scenery for the impending free agent. Spacious Dodger Stadium is by no means a hitter's paradise, while Great American Ball Park has earned the nickname "Great American Small Park" for a reason.

But don't expect money to be the 28-year-old's only motivation this year.

MLB Network @MLBNetwork

.@YasielPuig has his sights set on the playoffs with the @Reds. #30Clubs30Days https://t.co/dpWAmFAPMq

"I feel the love from the city, from the team, and the love for having me here this season," Puig told Gonzalez. "I want to do the best I can to help the team win and give the best of myself and the game to all the fans and all the city—thank the city back for having me here and giving me this opportunity to play this year, with a Cincinnati Reds uniform."

Puig recently told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon that he is willing to re-sign with the Reds, saying that if general manager Nick Krall "gives me the money, I will be here as many years as he wants." Per Gonzalez, though, Puig appears to be keeping his options open, noting his favorite color is red and his second-favorite is blue.

"Those are the two colors that I want to be in my house, in my closet—red or blue," Puig told Gonzalez. "There's a lot of red teams, there's a lot of blue teams. It's not only Cincinnati, not only Dodgers, you know? Maybe Texas, Anaheim. I don't know. There's a lot of red teams. St. Louis Cardinals—I don't know. I also can stay here. You never know."

Puig's comments about not working hard until his walk year could make teams hesitate to make a long-term commitment to the talented star. However, if he has a big year for the Reds, someone will undoubtedly pay him. After all, Manny Machado recently got $300 million despite making it clear last year that he is no "Johnny Hustle."

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