Former MLB outfielder Yasiel Puig signs with South Korean club

yasiel puig
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
5 Comments

SEOUL, South Korea — Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig has signed a one-year, $1 million contract with South Korean club Kiwoom Heroes.

Puig, who turned 31 this week, hasn’t played in the majors since 2019, when he played 100 games for the Cincinnati Reds and 49 for the Cleveland Indians before becoming a free agent.

Ko Hyung-wook, the general manager of the Seoul-based Heroes, said Puig’s past season in the Mexican League, where he batted .312 and hit 10 home runs for El Aguila de Veracruz, showed that his skills remained “excellent.”

Ko said Puig still has an interest in making a return to the big leagues and hoped that his drive to prove himself will have a positive impact on his Korean teammates. Ko downplayed concerns about Puig’s maturity, saying he came away with the impression that the former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder was “devoted to family, and mature” after their personal talks.

Puig batted .277 with 132 home runs and 415 RBIs while appearing in seven major league seasons, the first six with the Dodgers where he earned an All-Star selection in 2014.

Puig’s offensive production regressed in the following years and he also developed a reputation for erratic on-field behavior, finding himself in the middle of several benches-clearing incidents. He was suspended three games in 2019 for his involvement in a brawl against the Pittsburg Pirates in his last game as a Red, an altercation that happened just moments after the team traded him to the Cleveland Indians.

Puig was reportedly in talks for a deal with the Atlanta Braves last year before he announced via Twitter in July 2020 that he tested positive for COVID-19.

The Heroes finished fifth among 10 clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization in this year’s regular season and were eliminated by crosstown rivals Doosan Bears in the first round of the postseason.

Puig is one of several former MLB players who have signed with KBO teams for next season. The Daejeon-based Hanwha Eagles said Friday it had signed former San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Tauchman on a one-year, $1 million deal.

Tauchman’s best season in the majors came in 2019, when he hit 13 home runs and had 47 RBIs while appearing in 87 games for the New York Yankees. But he failed to hit another homer for the Yankees before being traded to the Giants mid-season in 2021.

The Seoul-based LG Twins announced it signed former Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Adam Plutko on a one-year deal potentially worth $800,000, including a maximum $300,000 in incentives. Plutko appeared in 38 games for the Orioles this year and went 1-2 with a 6.71 ERA.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

mlb
Logan Riely/Getty Images
1 Comment

PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.