The beginning of Major League Baseball’s regular season is just over two weeks away, yet high-profile outfielder Yasiel Puig still doesn’t have a job. The onetime All-Star and former Dodger, Red and Indian is the lone straggler from MLBTR’s offseason-opening ranking of the sport’s top 50 free agents. At that point, we forecast a one-year, $8MM contract for Puig, who reportedly turned down a $10MM guarantee from an unknown team sometime over the winter. Otherwise, reported interest in the polarizing Puig has been scarce.
Unfortunately for Puig, he didn’t reach free free agency at the ideal juncture. For one, there were similarly valuable or better corner outfielders available (Nick Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, Corey Dickerson and Kole Calhoun come to mind). And though Puig was a star at times earlier in his career in Los Angeles, he combined for a mediocre 3.0 fWAR from 2018-19. Last season was especially middling for Puig, who slashed .267/.327/.458 in 611 plate appearances. While Puig did hit 24 home runs and steal 19 bases, his overall offensive output amounted to a 101 wRC+, which basically means he was a league-average performer with the bat.
As unspectacular as his numbers may have been last year, there’s certainly still an argument that Puig would be worth the trouble for someone. Earlier this week, Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs made a compelling case for the Rangers to sign him on the heels of the fractured jaw fellow outfielder Willie Calhoun suffered Sunday. They’re one potential fit. But there are more teams that may be able to benefit from Puig’s presence.
Several rebuilding or non-contending clubs (the Giants, Rockies, Marlins, Orioles, Tigers and Mariners make for a half-dozen examples) are set to bring uninspiring-looking outfields to the table. Puig wouldn’t turn any of them into winners, but a few decent months could allow one of those teams to get something back for him at the July trade deadline. Even prospective contenders like the Yankees and Athletics may have needs in the grass at the moment, depending on how certain injury situations shake out. Meanwhile, the Indians – with whom Puig finished 2019 – don’t exactly boast a veritable Murderers’ Row out there.
Ultimately, it may take a serious injury in either the spring or near the start of the regular season for Puig to land somewhere in the next few weeks. But it’s odd that he remains available now – especially considering he doesn’t have a qualifying offer hanging over his head, as the likes of Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel did a year ago.
Puig has now been on the market for four-plus months. How much longer do you expect him to stay there?
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