A few years ago the notion of Yasiel Puig‘s free agency seemed kinda fun and exciting. You could picture people arguing about whether giving him big bucks was a good idea. Whether the great production was worth the circus.
These days he’s nowhere near a first-tier free agent, his 2019 season was — with the exception of one early-season bit of chaos — kind of quiet, and his lack of production has rendered this offseason almost completely devoid of Puig chatter.
Jon Heyman breaks that silence today by reporting that the Miami Marlins met with Puig this week. Heyman says the club has also talked to Avisaíl García, Corey Dickerson and Kole Calhoun. Again, not the kind of company you would’ve figured Puig would be keeping in his eventual free agent market, but a lot has happened over the years.
As for that production, Puig hit a mere .252/.302/.475 (92 OPS+) for the Reds before being traded to the Indians. Once in Cleveland his performance improved — he hit .297/.377/.423 (109 OPS+) — but it was definitely a down year overall. Certainly a step down from his performance for the Dodgers in 2017-18, when he was increasingly platooned but productive when he did play, and many steps down from the kinds of things he did when he first burst on the big league scene as a superstar in 2012-13.
Then, of course, there was the legacy he authored in Los Angeles. He was never as bad as his worst critics tended to portray him. Indeed, given that he was portrayed as literally putting fans’ lives at risk, such a thing would be impossible. A more sober, and better-reported deep dive into his time in Los Angeles revealed that Puig was generally liked by most of his teammates and club officials, even if he could be exasperating. Which meant that most of his problems weren’t personal, they were professional. Puig was a frustrating teammate who failed to take full advantage of his potential and failed to take coaching advice. The knock on him being a team cancer was overstated, but his stubbornness and belief in his physical skills and resistance to playing smarter rather than simply playing harder turned him into an often unreliable underachiever, and that can be even worse when a guy is being counted on.
So here we are. The Marlins, one of the least desirable free agent destinations in the game, is his first primary suitor of the offseason. At 29, Puig is certainly capable of bouncing back and, perhaps, turning into a free agent bargain for either Miami or someone else. But one also suspects that, barring a big change in his approach, this could be the last time he’s spoken of as a player in which anyone is all that interested.