The Braves are close to a deal with veteran outfielder Yasiel Puig, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, and Twitter user Brian Chandler were among those to report Tuesday:
Puig was the most high-profile free agent left on the market, and now he joins a Braves team that already had a surplus of outfielders but was weakened a bit last week when veteran outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season. With the introduction of the universal DH this year, perhaps allowing Marcell Ozuna to avoid playing the field, Atlanta will have Ronald Acuña Jr., lefty masher Adam Duvall, Ozuna, and Puig as part of its outfield mix. While both are natural infielders, Austin Riley and Charlie Culberson could be in for reps in the outfield as well, depending on how the Braves’ injury and illness situation shakes out during the 60-game season. The Puig signing would seem to reduce the chances of highly-touted prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, ranked respectively as the No. 13 and 26 prospects in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, debuting and seeing significant action this year.
The biggest digs on Puig have always come through vague complaints about how he “doesn’t play the game right way” or “isn’t a team player,” but his statistical record is actually quite impressive, and it’s surprising that he stayed on the free-agent market as long as he did. He’s a .277/.348/.475 career hitter — good for a well-above-average 122 OPS+ — and though he had a relatively disappointing season in 2019, hitting .267/.327/.458 with 24 homers, he still managed to post a league average 100 OPS+ and a solid 1.3 bWAR. While it’s fair to admit that he has some deeply weird tendencies on the field — he licks his bat and has a penchant for starting and participating in brawls, after all — he’s a guy who can help a team, and he should further boost a Braves team that was already seen as one of the favorites to win the NL pennant in 2020.