7:05pm: There are “mixed opinions” in regards to Atlanta’s interest, per Heyman, who names the Indians and Rays as teams that seem to be eyeing Puig. He’s not the first right-handed slugger Cleveland and Tampa Bay have been connected to in recent days.
The outfield may not have been a significant concern for the Braves until they lost starting right fielder Nick Markakis to a fractured wrist over the weekend. Markakis will likely be on the shelf until sometime in September. In the meantime, the Braves will continue trying to maintain their lead in the National League East. They currently hold a 4 1/2-game advantage over the Nationals, who were 7 1/2 back just a couple weeks ago.
As things stand, the Markakis-less Braves have Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall as their top four outfielders. Aside from the great Acuna, there’s no surefire producer in the bunch. The rookie Riley began his career with a flourish, but his numbers have plummeted as the season has progressed, and they’ve been especially woeful in July. Inciarte, normally a solid all-around player, has been rather poor at the plate this season. And though Duvall (acquired from the Reds last summer) was a 30-home run hitter twice in a row in Cincinnati from 2016-17, he was so subpar between Cincy and Atlanta in 2018 that it took Markakis’ injury for him to earn a call-up to the Braves’ roster this year.
Enter Puig? The Reds are reportedly open to dealing the ex-Dodger, whom they acquired in the offseason. Puig’s a pending free agent, so unless the out-of-contention Reds plan to extend or qualify him, it would make sense to trade the 28-year-old this week. The mercurial Puig got off to a terrible start this year as he began his Cincy tenure, but he has been far better over the past several weeks. In all, Puig owns a .254/.304/.478 line with 22 home runs and 13 steals (18 attempts) across 401 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Puig has continued to serve as an asset in right (3 Defensive Runs Saved, 0.7 Ultimate Zone Rating), per defensive metrics. He’s also reasonably priced, albeit not cheap, with a $9.7MM salary.