Yasiel Puig is a free agent no longer, as the free-agent outfielder has finally found a new home in Major League Baseball.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig‘s long, strange trip in free agency appears to have come to a conclusion. According to reports, Puig is expected to sign with the Atlanta Braves.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was the first to report the news of Puig’s new landing spot.
To say Puig’s first run through free agency didn’t go as expected would be underselling it. The outfielder went into the winter ranked 37th among all MLB free agents according to MLB Trade Rumors. However, he remained unsigned heading into the initial spring training and then was placed in limbo while the rest of the league went on lockdown due to the coronavirus shutdown.
However, while the shutdown may have cost him the opportunity to sign initially, it may have also opened up some opportunities. With the shortened season including the usage of the universal designated hitter, more teams were left looking for bats to fill holes. Additionally, players opting out of the 2020 season created interest where it may not have previously existed.
Both may represent solid reasoning for the interest exhibited by the Atlanta Braves. While the San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles were previously rumored to be showing varying levels of interest, the Braves’ situation merited more need and likely more opportunity for Puig. The need for a designated hitter, along with the opt-out by Nick Markakis and the COVID-19 diagnosis for slugger Freddie Freeman left Atlanta in need of a bat both in the outfield and at the DH spot. Per Jon Heyman, an ankle injury to prospect Christian Pacha likely was the final straw for Atlanta.
Puig split the 2019 campaign between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians, after being part of two blockbuster trades. The first sent him from the Dodgers to Cincinnati in exchange for prospects Josiah Gray, Jeter Downs, and salary dump Homer Bailey. The Dodgers then flipped Downs to the Red Sox as part of the package that brought Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.
2019 didn’t go quite as planned for Puig, as he struggled despite the close confines of Great American Ballpark. After hitting .252/.302/.75 with a wRC+ of 95 with the Reds, Cincy sent him to the Indians in order to acquire Trevor Bauer. He rebounded well in Cleveland, slashing .297/.377/.423 with a wRC+ of 112 over his final 49 games.
The Braves are hoping that he can provide some thump in a line-up that is suddenly in need of thump with Freeman expected to miss time and Josh Donaldson departing via free agency last winter. Likewise, Yasiel Puig is hoping to rebound in 2020, and use the shortened season to take another stab at free agency next winter.