Yasiel Puig is still a free agent and the Nationals need more depth at first/DH. Should the team sign him to a one year prove it deal?
With Ryan Zimmerman announcing earlier in the week that he will be sitting out the 2020 season, the team has a hole at first/DH. Eric Thames will be the presumptive starter at first, while Howie Kendrick will be the team’s main DH. However, Kendrick will need time off to stay fresh and Thames struggles against lefty pitching. Last year he hit .200, with two homers, and six RBIs against lefties, but smashed right-handed pitching to a tune of .254, with 23 homers, and 55 RBIs.
While brainstorming some ideas of players Washington could sign that would replace Zimmerman, I saw some National’s fans on Twitter mention Yasiel Puig as a possibility. Immediately, I was enthralled by the idea so I took to the District on Deck’s twitter account to ask the fans for their opinion.
The replies were split pretty evenly for both sides.
Now I understand that Yasiel Puig has had problems in the past and the baggage that he carries. However, I think it’s worth the risk, especially on a one year prove-it deal for a shortened season.
Why Washington Should Roll The Dice On Yasiel Puig
From 2013-2018, Yasiel Puig was a key piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping the team win the division every year he was with the club. While in LA, he battled injuries and inconsistencies, but still provided plenty of entertainment. In six years with the Dodgers, Puig hit .279, with 108 homers, and 331 RBIs. Puig was reliable in the field, recording 28 DRS and 49 outfield assists.
However, he was known for not always hustling and credited it to being under contract. Heading into the 2019 season, the Dodgers shipped Puig off to the Cinncinatti Reds. After arriving with the Reds, Puig had an in-depth interview with ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. He told Gonzalez,
"“”I never worked hard,”… “Maybe that’s the reason why I didn’t have my better years. … The last couple years, I didn’t work hard because I still have a contract to go. Now I think I’ll work hard more than any year in my life.”"
While this isn’t great to hear, Puig put LA behind him and worked hard, while with the Reds. In 100 games he hit .252, with 22 homers, and 61 RBIs. Despite improved expectations for team as a whole, the Reds fell well short, partly due to the offense’s early struggles. Puig put up modest numbers and in turn, at the trade deadline, he was sent to Cleveland. In 49 games with the Indians, he hit .297. with an OPS of .800. He finished the 2019 season hitting .267, with 24 homers, and 84 RBI’s.
Despite being a righty, Puig sometimes sufferers from reverse splits. However, last season he started to put that trend behind him. In 2019 against lefties, he hit .279, with five homers, and 23 RBIs, with an OPS of .791. When it came to righties, Puig hit .263, with 19 homers, and 61 RBIs, with an OPS of .783. At first glance, you can tell most of Puig’s production came against righties, but he was able to hit for a higher average against lefties. But if you take a deeper look, despite hitting more homers against righties, Puig was hitting home runs against lefties at a faster clip. In 136 at-bats against lefties, Puig hit five homers, good for a homer 27.2% of the time. While against righties, Puig hit 19 homers in 419 at-bats, good for 22% of the time. Puig has slowly started to become more balanced against both lefties and righties. With this type of production, he would greatly help the lineup.
Puig has played the outfield his entire career but, splitting time at DH would give Howie time to rest, while adding another power bat to the lineup. Puig wouldn’t be leaned on to carry the offense, but instead would add some much-needed pop, while helping to replace some of Rendon’s production. Having him on a one year deal would also allow for the veteran to prove to the league he is worthy of a multi-year deal, thus eliminating the chance he gets complacent again.