The Orioles are interested in signing free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig and have made “at least one offer,” according to a report from Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. We don’t yet know an estimate of the value of that contract offer, but one can only assume it would be a one-year pact for Puig, who evidently didn’t garner the interest he had hoped to in free agency.
Puig, 29, is certainly the most intriguing player left on the open market, with teams expressing a relative lack of interest in the former Dodger compared to other outfielders. That, combined with an extended stay in free agency due to the roster freeze enforced during MLB’s shutdown, means that Puig has largely been forgotten as the regular season approaches.
But he may have found a match in Baltimore. With just about two weeks until the season is set to get underway, there’s a clear need in the outfield. Whereas one might have projected the O’s Opening Day outfield to consist of Dwight Smith Jr., Anthony Santander, and Trey Mancini, none of those three are currently in camp. Mancini, of course, is recovering from surgery to remove a malignant tumor. But the unforeseen absences of Santander and Smith Jr., who have yet to report for camp, have made the Baltimore outfield mix especially thin.
Assuming that Santander and Smith Jr. will return to full health in the near future, that need will be mitigated some, but signing Puig might be preferable to relying on some combination of Stevie Wilkerson, D.J. Stewart, and Austin Hays. Puig could slide right into Mancini’s spot in right field, forming a respectable outfield trio alongside (hopefully) Smith Jr. and Santander.
If Puig were to sign with Baltimore, he would instantly become the most recognizable—and perhaps the best—player on an otherwise destitute roster, especially one that will likely be without Trey Mancini for 2020. And while Puig is no longer the electrifying young star that quickly rose to fame when he entered the league, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive Major Leaguer.
Last year, between Cincinnati and Cleveland, Puig batted .267/.327/.458 and slugged 24 home runs. He also managed to steal 19 bases—albeit without great efficiency—and has a track record of solid defense in right field. Needless to say, this wouldn’t be a slam dunk signing for the Orioles, and it likely doesn’t significantly improve the 2020 outlook, but it’s the type of signing that makes sense for a club in their position.