Well, it looks like baseball is officially coming back. With a little under a month until the start of the regular season (or at least, that’s the plan), former All-Star Yasiel Puig is still seemingly out of a job.
I’m not going to sit here and argue that he’s still an All-Star caliber player. That part of his career is likely behind him. But he can still be a quality, major league outfielder.
In 149 games last season split in an about 2-to-1 ratio between Cincinnati and Cleveland, Puig hit a very solid .267/.327/.458 with 24 long balls and 84 RBIs.
His OPS+, which measures a player’s offensive production relative to the rest of the league while adjusting for external factors (like ballparks), was 100 — exactly average. Anything above 100 is considered above average, and anything below is considered below average.
It was the second-worst single-season OPS+ of his career, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think his numbers could improve in 2020.
Still, it’s not bad in the least. Last season, seven of the 10 playoff teams had a starting outfielder with an OPS+ under 100, including both World Series teams.
Even though he’s played some center field in his career, he should probably stick in a corner at this point, and with the exception of a handful of games in 2016, he hasn’t spent any extended time there since 2014.
Of those seven teams, just three of them had only their center fielder with an OPS+ of under 100. Four of them — the Astros, Cardinals, Braves and A’s — would have had an upgrade offensively with Puig in one of their corner outfield positions.
His Statcast numbers are solid as well, sitting in the 67th percentile for exit velocity and the 66th percentile for barrel percentage.
He is also in the 59th percentile for expected slugging, 58th percentile for expected batting average and 53rd percentile for expected weighted on-base average.
That’s not to mention he’s deceptively fast, ranking in the 79th percentile in sprint speed.
Yes, he strikes out too much, sitting in the 46th percentile in strikeout percentage and 22nd percentile for whiff percentage. He’s in the 49th percentile for hard-hit percentage, which isn’t bad but it’s also nothing special.
He’s also not a great fielder at this point in his career, sitting in 39th percentile for outs above average, but his bat more than makes up for any deficiencies in the field. Besides, he’s also got a famous cannon of an arm, and watching him let it loose is an absolute treat.
Yasiel Puig perfectly executes the Janitor Throw pic.twitter.com/VvGmmvKKkW
— Kent (@RealKentMurphy) July 19, 2019
All in all though, Yasiel Puig is a quality baseball player who is more than deserving of at the very least a roster spot and probably a starting gig. There’s even a universal designated hitter now, so that makes 15 brand-new starting spots in the lineup for people to fill.
All of that isn’t even the best part about Puig — he’s the best kind of teammate.
Remember when the Reds and Pirates got into that crazy brawl last season? When Amir Garrett charged the entire Pirates dugout all by himself sparking one of the wildest brawls baseball has seen in a while?
Watch it again, and pay extra attention to Puig.
Brawl in Cincinnati:
For the 2nd time this year, Yasiel Puig is in the middle of a Reds-Pirates altercation.
This happened just moments after it was announced that Puig was traded to Cleveland on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/7j4zhoFODC
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 31, 2019
There was no player (and I say player because Reds manager David Bell was up there with Puig) who was as involved in the brawl as Puig. Not even Garrett.
Puig went all out defending his teammates, risking fine and suspension without a second thought.
YouTuber Jomboy in his breakdown of the brawl even pointed out that at the end of the brawl, Puig even got bad at his own teammates for presumably not fighting as hard as he did. It’s a great video I highly suggest you watch the entire thing, but if you only care about Puig, it starts at the 7-minute mark.
The best part of the entire thing is during the entire brawl, Puig technically wasn’t even on the Reds anymore. He got dealt to the Indians mid-game in exchange for Trevor Bauer in the deal that also sent Franmil Reyes to Cleveland and Taylor Tramell to San Diego, but for some reason was still playing.
Puig was going all-out to defend his teammates who technically weren’t even his teammates anymore, even though he probably didn’t know that yet.
That’s just the way Puig is. Some people love it, some people hate it, but regardless of what you think of him, what is undeniable is his passion.
But for some reason, he remains unsigned.
Yes, it was reported he did decline an offer from the Marlins and multiple other unnamed teams, seeking a larger salary, but that’s because he’s earned one. He’s never once made more than $10 million in one year (aside from 2013 when his salary was $2 million but his signing bonus was $12 million) despite being worth way more over his career.
That’s not to say he is going to get $10-plus million this season and we don’t know what the Marlins and other teams offered him, but it’s not unreasonable for him to request what he’s worth.
He’s one of the most fun players to watch in the league, and teams could certainly use him. It likely won’t be for a serious contender, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land a starting spot with a fringe-playoff team that’s looking to get over the hump. If not and he goes somewhere that doesn’t have a realistic chance of competing, he’ll easily be one of the best players in the lineup.
Please, someone just give him a home.
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) June 24, 2020