There are reports that former Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, and Cleveland Indians outfielder Yasiel Puig is close to signing a free-agent contract with the SF Giants. If this happens, how good would the fit be for the team and player?
They call it the “hot stove” for a reason.
Though the traditional baseball offseason is over, with the sport waiting to be given clearance on commencing the 2020 season, the rumor mill continues to churn.
According to Cuban baseball writer Francys Romero, sources believe the dynamic outfielder who shares the writer’s nationality is headed to the Giants on a contract with unspecified details, but believed to have a one year option.
Romero notes that both sides are waiting for MLB to announce a start date in order to finalize the contract.
Like all free agency rumors, this information should be taken with a grain of salt. In the current state of the sports world, nothing is for certain.
However, respected Giants beat reporter Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle believes Puig “has a good shot at being a Giant,” but also cautioned that sources of his own “warned [him] of [that day’s] tweet.”
Though there are conflicting reports, Puig and the Giants have unquestionably been linked to each other this offseason, and this linkage has carried on into the postponed season. Therefore, it’s reasonable enough to speculate the extent to which this fit would make sense for both sides.
Let’s start with Yasiel Puig.
Last season, the “Wild Horse” hit .267 with 24 home runs and 84 runs batted in across 149 games played between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. This included a decent .327 on-base percentage and .458 slugging percentage.
More telling about his offense, however, was his .785 OPS and 100 OPS+ — better indicators of offensive performance over the course of a season. Given that the average OPS in baseball is roughly .750 and the average OPS+ is 100, Puig had a pretty average 2019 statistically speaking.
He also finished with a 1.3 bWAR (wins above replacement), a slightly above average figure, which appears to be in line with the aforementioned OPS indicators.
Defensively, he rated out approximately average as well. Playing mostly right field, he finished with exactly 0 DRS (defensive runs saved) and a negative rating based on another widely used defensive metric, ultimate zone rating (UZR), at -1.2, which considering the incredible defense he was providing at earlier stages in his career, is not terrible.
So what are the main takeaways from these stats?
Yasiel Puig is clearly still a productive major league outfielder who has pop in his bat, a decent glove, speed in his step, and a flair for the dramatic.
In fact, prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 offseason, Fangraphs listed Puig as a top-50 free agent in all of MLB and projected him to receive a three-year, $39 million contract.
The question remains, then, does he fit with the Giants? Examining the state of the team’s roster from 2019, the answer would appear on paper to be an emphatic yes.
Sure, Puig spent the first five seasons of his career with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers and provided more than a few moments of tension between himself and the Giants, particularly his beef with Madison Bumgarner, but allowing for lingering animosity is no way to run a franchise.
Time to put the old hatred aside, especially when the Cuban outfielder can be had for a bargain given his productivity.
One of the most obvious reasons why this fit would make sense for the team — Puig’s connection to recently hired Giants President of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi. Both spent multiple seasons together in the Dodgers organization.
Secondly, consider these scenarios. Puig would have been second on the team with his 611 plate appearances across 149 games played, trailing only outfielder Kevin Pillar, now of the Boston Red Sox.
His 24 home runs would have led the team outright. His OPS of .785 would have been second on the team to outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who blossomed last season with an .852 OPS.
And his OPS+ of 100 would have been third on the team to Yastrzemski and third-baseman Evan Longoria. The fit from a lineup perspective would be undeniable.
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Outside of Yastrzemski, who appears to be a budding star for the team, the Giants have a below-average outfield, to put it lightly. Yasiel Puig could help change that.
Of course, the Giants were not very good overall in 2019, so a case could be made that almost any roughly league-average player would’ve made the team better.
Although, San Francisco did finish better than people expected, hanging around in the wild card race until September, and finishing with a 77-85 record.
Perhaps adding a Puig-type player to their roster last season would have been the missing piece to a team that clearly surged in the second half of 2019.
It remains to be seen what direction the SF Giants are going in, as it has not been in their recent tendencies to rebuild, but they are far from being classified as going “all-in.”
Regardless, taking a flier on the Wild Horse could prove to be a sound, economical decision.