Ten days before Opening Day, the Braves signed Yasiel Puig to a one-year deal. The news came a little over a week after Nick Markakis decided to opt-out of the regular season, making the loss of the 15-year veteran outfielder much easier to swallow. Unfortunately, days later, Puig tested positive for the coronavirus, which voided the contract and made him a free agent again.
In response, the Braves signed Matt Adams, who hit a couple of home runs over the first two weeks of the season. But in Tuesday night’s throttling of the Blue Jays, Adams came up limp and grabbing his hamstring after attempting to beat out a throw to first base. The next day he was added to the 10-day IL with a hamstring strain — a challenging injury to overcome for anybody, but especially players over 30-years-old. At the very least, Adams will miss 2-3 weeks, and it could be the rest of the season, depending on how severe the injury is. Ender Inciarte took months to recover from a pulled hamstring he suffered last year, and he’s in far better shape than Adams.
Speaking of Inciarte, he’s been abysmal with the stick this season, hitting just .188 with a .566 OPS in 38 plate appearances. It’s only been two weeks, and there was a four-month layoff with limited spring training, but the advanced stats aren’t very encouraging. Inciarte is in the bottom 1% of batters in terms of hard-hit %, bottom 11% of xSLG, bottom 27% of xwOBA, and bottom 17% of xBA. Even his sprint speed is in the bottom 34% of the league. You might not know what a lot of those advanced metrics mean, but I can tell you that none of them are promising for his offensive outlook going forward.
It’s getting to the point in a 60-game season where the Braves must decide if they want to keep starting Inciarte 70% of the time or look for an alternative, like Puig. Acuña may not be as good defensively in center field as he is in right field, but the offensive firepower added by a player like Puig could prove to be worth it. The Braves also need it after adding Ozzie Albies to the IL as well.
On the same day that the Braves lost Matt Adams, they also lost Albies, who has been one of the most critical pieces to their team over the last two seasons, especially with the bat. He’s been dealing with a wrist injury for weeks now, and even with rest, doctors aren’t sure it’s going to make anything better.
There’s a significant chance that it doesn’t, and we don’t see the 2019 version of Albies with the bat all year. If that’s the case, the Braves desperately need another boost, especially with their starting rotation in shambles following the loss of Mike Soroka for the season.
It’s also worth noting that the league and the MLBPA decided last night that there will be 28-man rosters for the remainder of the season and playoffs, meaning the Braves wouldn’t be necessarily booting anyone off the roster to make room for Puig. Over three weeks after we found out the Braves were pursuing the right-handed slugger, the signing now makes more sense than ever. Hopefully, Puig has already tested negative for COVID-19, but if he hasn’t, Alex Anthopoulos should be closely monitoring his situation.