It’s fair to say the Braves have already lost a game or two because of their lack of depth on the bench, particularly in the outfield. After yesterday, that group is getting even thinner following the announcement that Cristian Pache is headed to the 10-day IL with a groin strain. Guillermo Heredia, who is on the 40-man roster, will take his place on the 26-man roster while Ender Inciarte is expected to be inserted into the starting lineup.
To be blunt, nothing about the situation should inspire confidence for the Braves. Heredia hit .212 last season and has a career OPS of .660. Ender Inciarte has declined drastically offensively over the last few years and hit below the Mendoza Line in 2020. Cristian Pache — despite all the potential — doesn’t look major-league ready right now. He’s batting .131 with a .361 OPS through 30 at-bats this season, and while that is a petite sample size, it is the way he looks at the plate that is the most discouraging.
Pitchers are breezing through Pache’s spot in the order with three pitches as if he is a second pitcher in the lineup. I’m not saying he should be given up on, but at the very least, the Braves need to ensure they have a backup plan in place; and no, Inciarte is not a legitimate backup plan. It will likely have to come from outside the organization, and there is a familiar face that makes the most sense.
If you don’t remember, here’s a refresher. The Braves signed Yasiel Puig just before the start of last season; however, a positive COVID test voided the contract, and for some reason, Atlanta decided not to pursue him once he cleared COVID protocols. That possibly could have been because Nick Markakis, who initially chose to opt-out of last season, decided to opt back in, making the need for Puig less necessary.
However, the powerful right-hander also made it through this past free agency without any offers, which suggests he is being blackballed from the league. Simply put, there’s no way Puig shouldn’t be in the majors. He has a career OPS over .800, a career OPS+ of 121, good for 20-30 homers a year, and gets on base at a .348 clip. Not to mention, he has no problem handling himself in the outfield. The reason major league teams haven’t shown interest is because of an ongoing sexual assault case in which he’s featured.
A woman has claimed that Puig forced himself on her in the bathroom of a Lakers game and proceeded to masturbate in front of her. Even as recently as yesterday, Puig denied all allegations, stating they ‘are totally false.’ Still, Major League Baseball is looking into the case, and it doesn’t appear that a conclusion is coming anytime soon. With this dark cloud looming over Puig’s head, it’s difficult to imagine any team taking a risk on him until he is cleared, especially the Braves.
I never like to assume regarding these sorts of accusations, but if this story is true, Puig deserves to be punished and should never be allowed to play Major League Baseball again. Hopefully, it is not, but until the truth comes out, it doesn’t seem likely he will be offered a contract from anyone. So if the Braves are trying to improve their outfield depth following the injury of Cristian Pache, they are better off trying to take a gamble on anybody else at this point.
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