Yasiel Puig remains available as spring training continues, and these five MLB teams should consider signing him.
Look at any list of the top MLB free agents written going into this past offseason, and Yasiel Puig is the only one who remains available now that we’re into March. As the start of the regular season approaches, it may take an injury to a notable outfielder over the next couple weeks to open up an opportunity for the now 29-year-old.
Puig split last season between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, with a total slash-line of .267/.327/.458 (.785 OPS), 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 611 plate appearances. He strikes out a lot and walks little, and he was merely a league average hitter based on OPS + (100) and wRC+ (101). But there’s certainly room somewhere for a league-average hitter who can still get on hot streaks, and provides neutral value as a defensive outfielder.
Puig’s days as even a 3.0 WAR player may be gone, and the expectations created by his fantastic 2013 debut (4.7 bWAR in 104 games) and 2014 follow up (5.1 bWAR) still linger. But even as the player he is today, these five teams should be looking to sign Puig.
5. Cleveland Indians
The Indians don’t seem inclined to do anything notable, and they have added Domingo Santana, Franmil Reyes and Delino DeShields to their outfield mix. But outside of Oscar Mercado being locked into center field, it’s quantity more than quality in the mix for time in the corner outfield spots (Santana, Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, Jake Bauers). Reyes can be tabbed as a similar player to Puig, as a corner outfield/DH type, and he’s also younger.
Puig and his barely over 1.0 WAR from 2019 (1.2 fWAR, 1.4 bWAR) doesn’t move the needle, beyond any buzz that his name still creates. But the Indians have some familiarity here, and signing him to a reasonable one-year deal creates a potential trade asset at the deadline if the roster tear-down really begins in Cleveland this year.