Yasiel Puig last played in an MLB game in 2019. The All-Star outfielder found a home in the summer, after months of waiting, signing with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, the deal fell through following a positive COVID-19 test and he never got an opportunity. Now, with spring training underway and Opening Day closing in, Puig remains a free agent.
While we haven’t seen him play live in over a year, Puig is still a reliable everyday player. He has a cannon for an arm in right field and posted a .785 OPS, 24 home runs and 84 RBIs with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds in 2019.
He can make an impact whether it be starting on a full-time basis or as a fourth outfielder. With several teams needing to solidify their batting order or lacking some power off the bench, Puig stands out as a top free-agent talent who fits a lot of clubs.
Ranking best landing spots for Yasiel Puig
5. Atlanta Braves
The Braves originally signed Puig to be a fifth outfielder. This time around, they could sign him to be their first outfielder off the bench.
With Adam Duvall joining the rival Miami Marlins and Nick Markakis still a free agent, the Braves could use another outfielder. Puig can backup Ronald Acuña Jr. in right field and occasionally play next to him when Acuña shifts to center. Puig could also challenge Ender Inciarte, or at least push him throughout the season. Inciarte hit just .190, that was already coming off a season where he hit .246. The veteran has struggled to get on base in recent memory, whereas Puig has slugged at a much higher rate over his career.
Although he hasn’t played the position consistently, Puig has made 60 starts in center and three in left. Maybe the Braves turn the 30-year-old into a savvy, versatile outfielder?
4. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have a lot of positional versatility, but it would be prudent for them to add another outfielder.
Jason Heyward is locked in as manager David Ross’ right fielder. But, even at his best, Heyward is just an average on-base threat at this point in his career. Puig provides an offensive jolt and speed on the basepaths. The two outfielders could platoon in right based on the matchups, with Heyward facing righties and Puig starting against southpaws.
Joc Pederson, who inked a one-year deal this offseason, hit just .190 last season. With Ian Happ’s experience playing six positions, there could be opportunities all over the outfield grass in 2021. An outfield rotation that includes the aforementioned commodities and Jake Marisnick would make for a well-rounded unit.
3. Oakland Athletics
There are a bevy of questions surrounding manager Bob Melvin’s outfield. Can Stephen Piscotty stay healthy? Will Ramon Laureano bounce back from his quiet 2020 campaign? Can Seth Brown be an everyday left fielder? Will Tony Kemp get on base at a higher level? Do the A’s have the depth for Mark Canha to be the designated hitter? These questions open the door for them to add another outfielder.
Puig would push Piscotty in right and offer a fellow outfielder a day off in the field. With the flexibility of this outfield, players could take different spots until something clicks and the lineup gels. In a long season, it would also keep everyone fresh. The A’s could also use more production at the plate, as they 16th in MLB in runs (274), 21st in slugging (.396) and 25th in batting average (.225) last season.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
As funny as it sounds to say that the Dodgers need something after signing Trevor Bauer, they could actually use another outfielder.
With Pederson bolting for the Cubs, the Dodgers have four outfielders with extensive big-league experience at their disposal: Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor. Pollock has a well-documented injury history, and Taylor gets reps in the infield. There’s playing time to be had in manager Dave Roberts’ outfield.
In his return to the team that he spent the first six seasons of his MLB career with, Puig would further weaponize a formidable offensive attack. Puig has familiarity with the outfield dimensions of Dodger Stadium, meaning if Roberts looks to play him in left field it shouldn’t be a drastic adjustment. A reunion between the two parties fills a void for the Dodgers and offers Puig the chance to get his career back on track.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals probably still have a hangover from acquiring star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. When they wake up they’d be wise to add another starting-caliber outfielder. Enter Yasiel Puig.
Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson and Lane Thomas have been productive in spurts. While sturdy as a collective whole defensively, Puig is as good as any of the Cardinals’ current outfielders with the bat. He’d add a power threat to their lineup and could be their best defensive outfielder from the jump. Puig’s offensive production coupled with his glove gives him a chance to be in the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup.
The Cardinals traded Dexter Fowler to the Los Angeles Angels to clear some payroll to absorb Arenado’s salary. Inking Puig to a one-year deal fills the void vacated by Fowler’s departure and adds another bat to an offense that has struggled to produce in each of the last two seasons. Puig would be a phenomenal pickup for the Cardinals.