- 28 years old
- Native of Cienfuegos, Cuba
- One of the most entertaining players in all of baseball
- Came in 2nd place in Rookie of the Year voting in 2013
- Loves the taste of baseball bats
- Signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 as an amateur free agent
- Made MLB debut on June 3, 2013
- Traded by the Dodgers, along with Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and Kyle Farmer to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey, Josiah Gray, and Jeter Downs after the 2018 season.
- 2019 Contract Status: Signed thru 2019, 1 yr/$9.7M
Ken Gif-y Jr.
We could be here all day
Of all the improvements the Cincinnati Reds have made this offseason, there isn’t one that they have been as “all-in” on as the acquisition of Yasiel Puig. That might sound strange, considering they signed Sonny Gray to a three-year extension as a part of his acquisition from the New York Yankees. Put all that aside, and the face of the 2019 offseason has undoubtedly been Puig. I mean, look at all the marketing the Reds have done for a player who is currently only under contract for one season with the team. He already has a bobblehead date lined up, they rolled out the red carpet for his first trip to Cincinnati as a member of the Reds, and have generally put him on the front-and-center as much as any player in the organization. After 5 straight losing seasons, the Reds needed a spark to get people to the ballpark, and they found it in Puig.
Puig brings an immediate upgrade to an outfield that mostly struggled offensively in 2018. Reds’ outfielders averaged a line of .241/.316/.389 with a wRC+ of 89. Those numbers were largely drug down by Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall, who both struggled at the plate last season and will be playing baseball elsewhere in 2019. Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker both hit really well in the first half, but they both had shoulder injuries that limited them in the second half. Schebler saw his slash line decline to a paltry .202/.305/.368 after hitting the DL with an AC joint sprain in July, while Winker, who was hitting .299/.405/.431 and had just smacked 5 dingers in the month of June, had season-ending surgery at the end of July.
The addition of Yasiel Puig to an outfield with a healthy Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker drastically helps the offense. Puig is coming off a 2018 season where he hit .267/.327/.494 for the Dodgers. His 23 home runs were his second most in a season, he had a career-high 15 stolen bases, and his wRC+ of 123 was his highest since 2014. His power should also play very well in Great American Ballpark. He also brings a defensive upgrade that the Reds need, especially with the loss of Billy Hamilton. While defensive metrics are certainly flawed (hello, Jesse Winker), his defensive numbers in 2018 were better than the Reds’ right fielders, as he had 7 more Defensive Runs Saved than the Reds did at that position last season.
Lastly, Puig brings a needed change of scenery, both for himself and the Reds. There’s a reason the Reds have gone all-in on marketing Puig this offseason: He is one of the most exciting players in the game. Whether it’s bat-flipping, bat-licking, or laser-beam throws from right, he has the potential to make a play every night that gets fans on their feet. It also gives him a fresh start with a new organization. Puig’s time in Los Angeles had a lot of ups and downs, going all the way from saving the Dodgers season after his 2013 call-up to getting sent down to Triple-A in 2016. While he played well in 2018, he didn’t exactly seem thrilled with the way some things were handled. This allows him to start over and try to make things better with a new team. It also doesn’t hurt that the Reds hired Turner Ward as their new hitting coach, who was close to Puig in Los Angeles.
All of these factors lead us to hope for an exciting season with Yasiel Puig roaming the Cincinnati Reds’ outfield. Even if it is only for one season, it is certainly going to be fun.