Yasiel Puig is the man in the blurry image—a still frame from a video—up there. I could have found a cleaner video, I suppose, or I could have stolen an image from another website (though that's against copyright law, and we at Deadspin love copyright law). But anything sharp or clear wouldn't effectively communicate the essence of the Cuban prospect whom the Dodgers signed today, because Los Angeles just guaranteed $42 million over seven years to a mystery.
Yes, Puig is, according to his agent: "a linebacker with a defensive back's speed." And yes, he hit .330 with 17 homers in his last Cuban season—the seasons there are only 90 games long. And yes, he looks awesome in that video.
But there's no way Puig is worth this money. He hasn't played baseball in 14 months. He has no track record against reliable competition. (Which is to say, we have next to no idea what .330 in the Cuban leagues means.) Oh, and: he's 21 years old. That means promise, but it also means volatility. When in-his-prime Hideki Matsui signed his first American contract, he got $21 million over three years. 10 years later, it's nearly the same annual value with twice the guarantee for a player with a murkier future.
But but but, you'll say. The Dodgers bought out Puig's arbitration years! Doesn't that make it worth it? No. They did not buy out his arbitration years. He has an option to void his contract and go through the usual salary arbitration process when the time comes, which means that if Puig happens to be any good, he'll be making far more than the Dodgers guaranteed him. If he busts, he'll make exactly what the Dodgers guaranteed him: $42 million. Sometimes you forget Ned Colletti's there, and then, boom, there he is, a throwback to the heyday of dimwitted general managers.
The Puig deal says less about the Dodgers front office, though, than it does about the collective high across MLB induced by the promise of ceaselessly increasing TV rights fees. (Puig's agent said another team offered even more than LA did.) We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Baseball teams spend so freely because they're so certain they'll be able to rip off every cable television customer in perpetuity. The Dodgers expect a $4 billion TV rights deal in the near future. When you're counting on that kind of cash from everyone in SoCal with a set-top box, what's $42 million for some musclebound kid who looked good swinging a bat for your scouts in Mexico City? Throw it his way. What could go wrong?