Outfielder Yasiel Puig will not be signing with the Braves after all, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. Puig reportedly agreed to a contract with the Braves earlier this week, but he announced Friday on Twitter that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. That was enough to scuttle the deal for Atlanta, which Rosenthal writes never actually reached an agreement with Puig.
Of course, this is a stunning turn of events for the Braves and Puig. First and foremost, though, is the 29-year-old’s health. Fortunately, he tweeted that he’s asymptomatic and feeling fine. Puig will need two negative tests before he’s eligible to return to action, which suddenly looks in jeopardy of happening at all in 2020 now that his pact with the Braves won’t go through. It’s unclear whether the Braves will circle back to the righty-swinging Puig in the near future. For now, they’re looking for a left-handed-hitting bench option to supplement their offense, according to Rosenthal.
Even before this development, Puig went through a surprisingly difficult few months. While he has been a solid contributor for most of his career, which began with the Dodgers in 2013, a down 2019 between Cincinnati and Cleveland led to a tepid market in free agency. The months-long COVID-19 shutdown that prevented teams from making transactions also didn’t help Puig’s cause. Once he regains his health, he’ll surely try yet again to land a contract with a major league team. Even if he does, he probably won’t be able to debut this season until at least sometime in August.
The Braves received great news Friday when first baseman and lineup linchpin Freddie Freeman was cleared to return to action, but their outfield depth has taken multiple hits of late. Before the failed Puig deal, veteran Nick Markakis opted out of the season over health concerns. They do currently have Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna and Ender Inciarte as starters in the grass, though, and their track records indicate they should make for a quality trio. Prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters may not be far off, but Pache is dealing with an ankle injury at the moment. Otherwise, Austin Riley, Adam Duvall and Charlie Culberson could be the team’s top reserves in the outfield.