I cannot wait to see the comments online and mentions on Twitter after I post this article. I understand why most baseball fans do not like Yasiel Puig. Trust me. In the Bobby Cox era, there was about a zero percent chance this would ever happen and that still might be the case. But with all that being said, putting him in a Braves uniform is starting to make some sense.
With the departure of Josh Donaldson, the Braves only have two options to fill the void in the middle of their lineup: give up prospects for a star third baseman, or sign one of the free-agent outfielders still on the market. One way or the other, they have to find Freddie Freeman protection in the lineup.
Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant are a much better fit for that role than the outfielders on the market, but it’s unknown if Alex Anthopoulos will be willing to part ways with top prospects, something he has yet to do since the Braves turned the corner in their rebuild. If they do not, they can still pick up a bat with some pop, but I wouldn’t call any of them elite cleanup hitters.
The outfielders of reported interest are Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Even if the Braves were to hold onto to their terrific outfield prospects by avoiding a deal, signing either of these two will require a multi-year contract that could ultimately block one of the youngsters from everyday roles. However, there is another option out there that can offer the same production for a fraction of the cost and may not require a long-term commitment – Yasiel Puig.
Career averages: (AVG/OBP/OPS)
All three players are in their primes, and while Castellanos is a bit younger, he is also a huge liability on defense. Puig has superior numbers, but his personality is the reason he’s not mentioned in the same breathe as the others.
FanGraphs projects Puig to fetch somewhere in the three-year, $39 million range. At that price, I’m not so sure the Braves are going to be interested, but I’m also not so sure any contending team would be willing to offer him that many years. So if he wants to play on a winning team and build up his value for his next contract, it might be in his best interest to take a one or two-year deal with a slightly higher AAV. In this case, Puig should pique the Braves’ interest.
We saw Anthopoulos take a leap of faith with Donaldson’s injury history; perhaps he might do a similar thing with Puig’s antics. His personality is all over the place. However, nobody can doubt his hunger and desire to win every time he steps on the diamond, and a more youthful and competitive team could be an ideal fit for him. Puig would sure-up the Braves outfield while adding that middle-of-the-order pop the Braves are looking for at a fraction of the commitment it would take to land Ozuna or Castellanos.
Beyond that, bringing in Puig allows some more wiggle room for another trade and prevents Atlanta from having to worry about blocking their top prospects. The Braves have to make a move one way or another, but if they go the outfielder route, Puig’s baggage may be worth it for the short-term and long-term goals of the Braves. It may not fit a lot of people’s agendas, but at the end of the day, Puig can play, and winning comes first.