Could the San Diego Padres be interested in free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig?
Now that Mookie Betts is not available, the San Diego Padres could look elsewhere to upgrade the outfield.
Yasiel Puig is currently a free agent, who played six of his seven seasons in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2019, Puig played for the Cincinnati Reds before being dealt to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline.
If the San Diego Padres were to sign Puig via free agency, there would need to be a corresponding move.
The Padres outfield still has a bunch of question marks going into 2020. Other than Tommy Pham in left field, the remaining starting jobs and roster spots are up for grabs. Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero, Wil Myers, Trent Grisham, and Josh Naylor are competing for two spots though there might be a platoon to some degree.
The only way to open spots on the roster is via trade, with the apparent trade piece being Wil Myers.
Myers is stuck without a spot in the outfield because Pham will likely take his place in left field. Myers is not good defensively in centerfield and has limited time in right field, so his future is uncertain. Not to mention, Myers also makes $67.5 million over the next three years, which doesn’t meet his production level as of late. Unfortunately, trading Myers and his contract are giving the San Diego Padres fits.
Another tradeable outfielder is Josh Naylor. The Canadian masher is undoubtedly more of a first baseman, but Eric Hosmer currently fills that role. Hosmer is untradeable due to a no-trade clause, so Naylor is forced to play at a position in the outfield. Unfortunately, Naylor is not a good defender there, grading negatively in left field and right field. He is certainly better in left field, but that is now Pham’s position. Josh Naylor is without a role, but a young bat could be appealing to other teams looking for a DH or first baseman.
Puig is undoubtedly a player worth considering if the Padres made room on the roster. One of his most significant drawbacks is his antics on and off of the field. Puig always had a bad reputation but cleaned himself up a bit after being sent down to the minors in 2016. His teammates on the Reds seemed to like him last year as he showed he was committed to the team. The right-handed hitter might have finally matured.
On the field, Puig’s skill set is among the best in the MLB, as he is considered a five-tool player. In each of the last three seasons, Puig recorded an OPS+ of at least 100. The outfielder owns a career 122 OPS+. In the same time frame, Puig stole 15 or more bases and hit 23 or more home runs. He is a rare player who is a threat on the bases and at the plate with power.
In the field, Puig is a bit of a wild card. The Cuban outfielder is an average fielder at best with a plus arm. His case is odd because he can still run, based on his ability to steal bases. However, his fielding fundamentals have weakened over time. Bad jumps on the ball and just general laziness are a concern. The San Diego Padres can attempt to fix his fielding if they acquire the right-handed hitter. Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot both had better years defensively in 2019. The skills are there for him to be a better defender. He just needs to work on it.
Puig is 29 years old, so a long term deal is unlikely no matter where he signs. It is in the Padres best interest to not be locked up long term to Puig. A one-year deal could make sense for both sides, but that would only be if a trade of two were made to lessen the Padres’ current outfield load. In each of the last two offseasons, the Padres signed a free agent in February. A Puig signing would make it three. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath but this is A.J. Preller, who tends to think outside the box.