As outfielder Yasiel Puig remains unsigned and hopeful of a return to Major League Baseball, the sexual assault allegations brought forth against him earlier this offseason continue to cloud his market. Both Andy McCullough of The Athletic and John Barr of ESPN looked at the situation and the allegations in depth this week. McCullough spoke to Puig’s agent Rachel Luba, and Barr interviewed both the alleged victim and her brother. Luba declined to comment on the ongoing litigation when asked by The Athletic, choosing instead to focus on the outfielder’s baseball resume and desire to return to the game.
No police reports or criminal charges have been filed against Puig, although he is the subject of a civil suit filed by his accuser. The report from Barr is the first indication that the league has looked into the matter, although a full investigation has yet to take place. As Barr details, the league informed the plaintiff and her attorney that further investigation would not be possible because she has yet to provide her name. She tells Barr that she prefers to keep her identity out of public reporting on the matter because she runs an L.A.-area business wherein she works with other professional athletes. For the purposes of the suit against Puig and her interview with Barr, she is referenced only as “Jane Roe.”
The alleged incident, which is said to have occurred when Puig followed the woman into a bathroom at a 2018 Lakers game, is detailed at length in the linked reports from ESPN and The Athletic. Barr notes that court filings also detail a series of text messages from Puig to his accuser in the days after the Lakers game in question, wherein Puig sought to arrange a private meeting between the two. The woman tells Barr she does not recall when she gave Puig her number but that it would not have been unusual to do so for business purposes.
McCullough and colleagues Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang note that Puig’s camp has filed a motion to have the suit dismissed, taking the position that publicizing the lawsuit while remaining anonymous seeks only to “convict Mr. Puig in the court of public opinion, before Mr. Puig even has an opportunity to defend himself.” The plaintiff’s attorney calls that motion a “thinly veiled attempt by Defendant Puig to humiliate, harass, and punish” her client and pressure the woman into dropping the charges.
There’s no indication at this point as to when a judge will rule on on the suit or the motion to dismiss, although Barr writes that the suit itself is enough to dissuade many clubs from showing legitimate interest in Puig. The 30-year-old Puig has been a lightning rod for controversy even before these allegations surfaced in November, and one front office executive tells Barr that teams simply do not “want the headache” associated with signing him.
Puig has twice been arrested for reckless driving in the past, and he has drawn team-issued discipline at times in the past for being late to the field — though Luba contends that was due to an undiagnosed case of ADHD which is now being treated. Puig has not played in a Major League game since the conclusion of the 2019 season, as a reported one-year agreement with the Braves last winter fell through when Puig tested positive for Covid-19.