Yasiel Puig is still a free agent and with the 2020 season dwindling away, should the former Dodgers consider playing the in the KBO instead?
Amazingly, it is now early June and former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig remains a free agent. However, like the rest of those still available on the market, that part has been primarily out of his control.
Since mid-March, roster transactions have been frozen by the league (outside of minor league releases, apparently) as the league and players try to determine when and how to get the season underway in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, Puig is unable to sign with a team until the moratorium is lifted, regardless of any purported interest in his services. However, it doesn’t need to stay that way.
Yasiel Puig and his representatives may just need to think of a different approach.
Unlike his compatriots in MLB, who may or may not play a season in 2020, Puig is a free agent and as such, he has options he could pursue. Puig could look to the east and see if he can land an opportunity in the Korean Baseball organization, even if only for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Puig would hardly be the first to pursue playing overseas in order to boost his value stateside. One of his country-mates and another former Dodger, Jose Miguel Fernandez has been one of the KBO’s premier hitters over the last two seasons. But while Fernandez has become a star in South Korea, Puig would simply be looking to make the jump in order to build value for a return to MLB in 2021.
After being a premium outfielder with the Dodgers from 2013 to 2018, the right fielder found a tougher road in 2019 after being traded first to the Cincinnati Reds and then later to the Cleveland Indians. Overall he would slash .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, a wRC+ of 101, and had an fWAR of 1.2. While that production is at or just above league average, Puig didn’t find any takers on the hot stove this winter, reportedly declining a $10 million deal for one year from a National League team.
That may indicate that Puig is willing to bet on himself. What better way to push all-in then to jump to the KBO and become a star there? Eric Thames turned three years of KBO dominance into a three-year, $15 million deal prior to the 2017 season. That’s a far cry from what Puig is likely looking for, but it showed a long-term commitment that isn’t currently on the table for Puig either.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an immediate solution for Yasiel Puig either. The KBO only allows each team to roster two foreign players. With the season already underway, each of the ten teams has already met that allotment. In order for Puig to join a team there, someone would need to be cut. With only a month of play in the books, teams may wish to see more of their current players before taking a flyer on Puig.
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While it may not be ideal for Puig, the lack of clarity on the 2020 MLB season, and how that may impact current free agents still looking on jobs, this may be the one way that he can guarantee a paycheck this season. Of course, he’s made $51.7 million to date, so money doesn’t sound like a big concern. But if he’s interested in proving to MLB teams why he makes a good signing next season, the KBO may be the way to go.