Free agency in Major League Baseball opened way back in the beginning of November. At that point, nobody would have expected outfielder Yasiel Puig to remain without a job into April, but here we are. It’s going to stay that way for at least a little while longer, too, after MLB put a stop to transactions last week in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s hard to believe it has come to this for Puig, who has enjoyed an impressive career overall and who entered the offseason as MLBTR’s 37th-ranked free agent. We predicted Puig would land a one-year, $8MM contract, and he reportedly rejected a $10MM offer at some point during the winter, but it’s now difficult to envision him matching or eclipsing either figure on his next contract.
Why is Puig still a man without a team? Well, he didn’t do himself any favors with a middling 2019 performance divided between the Reds and Indians. Puig, a high-profile, oft-electrifying Dodger from 2013-18, entered Cincinnati as a .279/.353/.478 hitter (good for a 129 wRC+) with 108 home runs, 60 stolen bases and 19.7 fWAR in 2,765 plate appearances. Despite his generally above-average numbers, the Dodgers grew weary of the mercurial Puig even before they traded him, as they optioned him to the minors and placed him on revocable trade waivers during the 2016 season. That was one of the least productive seasons Puig has ever had, but he at least bounced back on offense from 2017-18.
Unfortunately for Puig, he regressed to his 2016 form during his platform campaign, even posting a matching 101 wRC+. The 29-year-old did smack 24 home runs and steal 19 bases, but his .267/.327/.458 line across 611 plate appearances was essentially average, while the 1.2 fWAR he logged represents the worst of his career over a full season. That said, Puig’s output last year wasn’t entirely dissimilar from his 2018, during which his batting line was 23 percent better than the league mean, according to wRC+. He also batted .267 and recorded a .327 on-base percentage that year, but Puig’s slugging percentage (.494) was superior by 36 points; meanwhile, his isolated power number (.227) was better by 36.
For the most part, Puig’s hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity stayed static in 2019, but he went to the opposite field about 5 percent more than he had during his Dodgers day. That helps explain the drop in power from 2018, as does Puig’s ineptitude against offspeed pitches. After battering offspeed offerings for a .380 weighted on-base average in 2018, Puig sunk to .281 last year. That won’t necessarily stick, though – after all, Puig did put up an even worse .226 in the offspeed category in 2016 before raising his output by 100-some points from 2017-18.
Meantime, Puig was a mixed bag at best on the defensive front in 2019. Overall, Puig has been a plus defender in the majors, but he ended last season with zero Defensive Runs Saved (only the second season in which he wasn’t a plus in that category), zero Outs Above Average and a minus-0.7 Ultimate Zone Rating. Puig also ranked in the bottom sixth percentile on Statcast’s Outfielder Jump leaderboard, though he did wind up in the league’s top 79th percentile in Sprint Speed.
While last season was clearly a mediocre showing by Puig, that doesn’t mean he should still be without an employer – especially considering his track record. Of course, if Puig did indeed misread things enough to say no to a $10MM guarantee, it’s partially his fault that he remains the most prominent free agent on a market that has come to a temporary halt. If and when life gets back to normal this year, it’ll be interesting to see whether Puig signs. He still looks like a player who could benefit at least some teams, particularly rebuilding types that could take a short-term flier on him and then flip him around the trade deadline (that’s assuming a season and a deadline occur).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With such a long layoff from baseball, injured players who wouldn’t ordinarily be playing will be ready to go. At this point, I think Puig will have to settle for a non-guaranteed minor league contract with opt-out dates.
Puig might have to go back to Cuba to play baseball. I don’t think anyone wants him in the USA.
injured players will be back but I wouldn’t be surprised if a higher rate of guys get injured and they temporarily increase roster sizes to compensate for a compressed season so he should get a job at some point
Peart of the game
Didn’t Collin McHugh get an MLB contract?
Yes, he went from trash kings to trash lite
I thought he would sign with the Pirates by now.
Not for 10 mil. 10 mil is about half the Pirates payroll.
True, but i thought he would take a small salary to join his friends
You might be right. He might be a good bargain 1 year pic-up for the Bucs.
My version of OOTP 21 threw Puig onto the Padres.
I expect he was waiting until Spring Training was done with so he could sign somewhere while skipping that. Of course, baseball jumped the gun on that option for him. Of all the people who didn’t see this coming, Puig and his agent are on that list.
Puig had one bad month and went back to his career norm from May onward.
So the whopping 2 home runs over 207 PAs with Cleveland were when he was back in his career norm?
From May to the end of the year he hit .283/.349/.480. His career slashline is .277/.348/.475. I would definitley consider that going back to his career norm.
Yasiel Pruig often “revisits” himself, and doesn’t recognize the visitor.
Puig has all the tools to be an All Star in this league; he just can’t get out of his own way. You can excuse his actions in his early years due to immaturity but he still seems to be somewhat of a lightening rod wherever he goes at age 28-29. I’d like to see him get another one year offer and work on being a better professional. He’s probably already cost himself $30M+ in career earnings due to his reputation as a disruptive player. He still has time and the talent to turn this around and fulfill his potential.
The Human Rain Delay
Puig has a great arm but he isnt a great defensive Rf
Puig has a bunch of speed but he doesnt steal bases and his sb % is brutal
Puig is one of the strongest players in the league yet he doesnt hit for power
This is Yasiel Puig, outside of being a terrible team player as well ofc, theres actually less behind the curtain now than most think imo
Mr. Narrative over here, since Plaschke And Donnie didn’t like Puig he’s a horrible teammate for the rest of time…
Oh no he’s not a White guy playing baseball without saying a word to anyone. How dare he have a personality!
The majority of Dodgers, including Turner who was hit teammate for 6 years, said they would consider him a good teammate. And I’d bet many in cincy feel similar when he stood up for his teammate and was going to take on a whole damn team
But the narratives!
The fact that the Dodgers put him on waivers and no one claimed him (all they had to do was pay his salary) tells me there is something to the ‘rumors’ about Puig being a disruptive player and/or someone who doesn’t give his all in every game. MLB teams continue to get more diverse than ever (Latinos leading the way), so I highly doubt this has anything to do with race or nationality whatsoever. People don’t like to hear this, but he is his own worst enemy. So long as players play hard and are good teammates, fans will embrace them regardless of their personality. Look no further than David Ortiz. The only thing bigger than his waistline was his personality and the man is a national treasure! Race has ZERO to do with Puig’s current status; his actions do!
I believe he was claimed but was pulled back when no trade materialized. It was actually kind of odd to even mention putting him on trade waivers as a negative given that teams would routinely place large parts of their rosters on waivers in August.
The Human Rain Delay
Ill go with with the fact hes unsigned as the telling tale you can stick to your narrative if you like / seems like you found it with the race card congrats 🙂
Dude hit 24 bombs with 19 bags last year so what are you talking about.
With his physique he should easily be hitting 40+ but he doesn’t.
The Human Rain Delay
Marock – 87 players hit 24 or more Hrs in 2019… 87!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 80 friggin 7!!
His sb% was 73% last yearwhich would put a red light from all 30 teams from having him take off- Ofc he does neway on his own hurting his team
Lifteime sb% 67% abysmal so….what are you talking about?
Its always nice to take a look at the numbers 🙂
The only thing dumber than offering Puig $10 mil was turning it down.
The biggest reason Puig isn’t signed is his personality. He hasn’t done himself any favors with his antics over the years. That makes teams pause when they think about he would affect their clubhouse. They don’t want him to be a disruptor and he has been that in the past
I thought by now he’d have signed to play in Japan!
Oh who am I kidding, the Rockies front office is too stupid to realize that this team needs fixing
Oh yeah! Puig on the Rockies would be a blast!
He can sign with the Lehigh Valley Iron Puigs
Puig is holding out for a multi year contract. If he would of signed a one year contract, he would have signed a long time ago.
Peart of the game
Seattle is his best fit.
Have to agree with you there. DiPoto is much more willing to take risks than most other GMs, so he is most likely to make a one-year gamble on Puig.
Angels & NL West
Puig appears, like cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation, to be holding out for a management position.
Dodgers might need a couple OF for next year.
Wise Old Owl
I’ve witnessed this immature boy/man for some time. His antics on and off the field create a distraction and disruption of team continuity. Pair him up with Rusney Castillo, and give them back to Cuba.