Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Rockies and the White Sox are reportedly the frontrunners to sign one of the best remaining free agents
The Colorado Rockies are reportedly emerging among the frontrunners to sign outfielder Yasiel Puig, reports Héctor Gómez of Deportivo Z 101. Gómez also mentions the Chicago White Sox as the other team courting Puig.
Puig is one of, if not the best remaining name on the free agent market. The 29-year-old will be best-remembered by Rockies fans for his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds last offseason and then swapped to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline.
In 2019, Puig produced a batting line of .267/.327/.458, with 24 home runs in 611 plate appearances between MLB’s two Ohio teams. His overall production was similar against both righties and lefties, with a higher on-base percentage against southpaws and more power against right-handed pitching.
It marked a bit of a down year for Puig, who has hit .277/.348/.475 in his seven-year career.
Primarily a right fielder (he hasn’t played center on a regular basis since 2014 or at all since 2016), defensive metrics have been mixed on Puig’s performance. Defensive Runs Saved considered him an average to above average fielder, while Ultimate Zone Rating has gone back and forth on above average to below average ratings. Puig produced exactly 0 Outs Above Average in 2019. All taken together, he can likely be summed up as an average defender.
Puig debuted in 2013 to great fanfare, being named National League Player of the Week and Player of the Month in his first week and month in the big leagues, respectively.
Throughout his career, Puig has become a rather polarizing figure, with fans who have fallen into camps of either loving his antics or abhorring them.
Among the most interesting events in Puig’s career:
- He was twice arrested on charges of reckless driving in 2013 (97 mph in a 50-mph zone and 110 mph in a 70-mph zone, though the latter charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence)
- In 2017, he flipped the bird to fans after hitting a home run in Cleveland (only to play for those fans a couple years later)
- In 2018, he and former Rockies’ catcher Nick Hundley got into a shoving match, resulting in a bench-clearing brawl
- In 2019, while with the Cincinnati Reds, Puig was involved in two bench-clearing brawls against the Pittsburgh Pirates (the latter coming after it was already announced he had been traded to Cleveland)
- Throughout his tenure as a member of the Dodgers, he often showed up late to camp. He ended up buying a helicopter to avoid the LA traffic jams
- Bat flips have been a trademark for Puig, and he added a unique personality trait of licking his bat in 2017, which became popularized during his appearance in the 2017 postseason
Andy McCulloch summed up the “complicated Dodgers legacy” of Puig well in a piece for the Los Angeles Times. Manager Dave Roberts spoke about Puig “taking plays off,” while Justin Turner also painted him in a less than favorable light. At the same time, Puig also admitted not putting in effort for the Dodgers and vowed to change that upon his trade to Cincinnati.
Puig is also known for his philanthropic efforts. He created the Wild Horse Children’s Foundation, through which he partnered with the city of San Fernando, California, to renovate Pioneer Park. He also met with a young fan in 2019 who was having his 40th surgery for hydrocephalus and treated the fan and his family to a Reds game and visited children battling cancer on an off day.
As for the Rockies, they are the only team not to sign a free agent to a guaranteed major league contract this offseason and Puig would certainly fit the bill.
However, the outfield is an area where the Rockies probably need the least amount of improvement—Charlie Blackmon is an All-Star and a healthy David Dahl is as well. Sam Hilliard proved himself worthy of a big-league roster spot with his late-season call-up in 2019, while Raimel Tapia is out of options and Ian Desmond doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Aside from Desmond, these are all left-handed hitting options. The right-handed Puig would offer balance to the lineup, but it’s hard to see how he fits on a roster that also contains Desmond, Tapia and another outfield option in Garrett Hampson.
Regardless, if the Rockies sign Puig, it would be by far the biggest move the Rockies have made this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a one-year, $8 million contract for Puig in November, but reports from January indicated his camp was seeking multi-year offers.
The Rockies weren’t a good team in 2019 and it’s quite possible they had a “fun” problem. Puig could improve the team in both areas, but ultimately his on-field talent is what makes this idea most intriguing.
On the other hand, from his time with the Dodgers, Rockies fans may be rightly concerned about his behavior in the clubhouse. Then, we need to ask ourselves if we believe he has stood by his word and improved his work ethic after leaving the Dodgers. The only way we’ll know is to see it firsthand.
Should the Rockies sign Puig? There may not be one right answer.