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Here is where Yasiel Puig could end up

February 9, 2020

Yasiel Puig is on the open market for the first time since he signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers as an international free agent. Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding Puig, who has averaged 25 homers over the last three seasons and

Yasiel Puig is on the open market for the first time since he signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers as an international free agent.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding Puig, who has averaged 25 homers over the last three seasons and recorded a career-high 84 RBIs between with the Reds and Indians in 2019.

Potential fits for Puig dwindling

Feb. 9: The Giants and Rays were said to be showing interest in Puig on Friday, per multiple reports, but both clubs are now likely out of the running for the 29-year-old.

Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports has heard from sources that talks between San Francisco and Puig are "all but dead" after the club signed Hunter Pence to a one-year contract and Billy Hamilton to a Minor League deal.

As for Tampa Bay, the club traded reliever Emilio Pagán to the Padres for center fielder Manuel Margot and a catcher/outfield prospect Logan Driscoll on Saturday, further adding to its logjam. Margot joins Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Randy Arozarena and José Martínez among the team's outfield options.

As a result, there doesn't appear to be an obvious fit for Puig. The veteran slugger has been connected to the Tigers, but signing him would likely push the team past its offseason budget, writes Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. The White Sox could use a right-handed complement to Nomar Mazara in right field, but they will likely look to fill that role with a less expensive option. The A's are already overloaded with outfielders who bat from the right side, including Ramón Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder and Khris Davis. The Rangers and Pirates are more in need of a center fielder than a corner outfielder, and the Marlins have already added several veteran outfielders this offseason.

Rays, Giants reportedly showing interest in Puig

Feb. 7: Puig is reportedly receiving interest from two teams -- the Rays, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, and the Giants, per baseball reporter Robert Murray -- but it's unclear how serious either club is about pursuing him.

Puig would only add to Tampa Bay's corner-outfield and designated-hitter logjam, but it's possible the club sees an opportunity to get him on a bargain deal. The slugger is among the best free agents remaining on the market, with Spring Training camps set to open next week.

San Francisco seemingly could use Puig more than the Rays, and Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has familiarity with the slugger from their days with the Dodgers. However, the club added a pair of outfielders on Friday, agreeing to a deal with Hunter Pence and signing Billy Hamilton to a Minor League contract.

The 29-year-old Puig began last season with the Reds before being traded to the Indians in July. Although the slugger hit 24 homers and stole 19 bases overall, he saw his wRC+ decline to 101 (123 in 2018). There appeared to be a potential fit for Puig back in Cleveland, but the club is reportedly on the verge of a deal with outfielder Domingo Santana, another right-handed hitter.

Does Betts trade create opening for Puig?

Feb. 4: Superstar right fielder Mookie Betts is on his way out of Boston by way of Tuesday's reported blockbuster trade that will send him to L.A., meaning there's another team that seemingly has a hole in right field entering Spring Training. Could Puig patrol the grass in front of Fenway Park's Pesky Pole in 2020?

The Red Sox did this trade largely in an effort to get under the competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold, and so Puig's average annual salary would have to be low enough to convince Boston to sign the dotted line. On the other hand, Boston's projected outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Verdugo now contains left-handed hitters at all three spots. As a right-handed bat who mashes righty pitchers (and with a plus arm to boot for Fenway's spacious right field), Puig would seem to at least fit on paper.

Puig among top free-agent hitters left on market

Jan. 27: With Marcell Ozuna joining the Braves last week and Nicholas Castellanos agreeing to a four-year contract with the Reds on Monday, teams in need of outfield power have few options remaining on the free-agent market.

That means Puig could start to receive more attention after what has been a mostly quiet offseason for the 29-year-old slugger.

Perhaps the Rangers could consider him after missing out on Ozuna and Castellanos. The club is known to be looking for another right-handed bat. Puig could also be a fit with the A's, Giants, Rockies, Tigers and White Sox.

Other notable free-agent outfield options include Kevin Pillar, Hunter Pence, Cameron Maybin and Domingo Santana. Elsewhere, there's Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier, Brock Holt, Jason Kipnis and Pablo Sandoval.

Tigers could target corner OF, but Puig 'isn't a priority'

Jan. 23: With Marcell Ozuna now off the board after inking a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves on Tuesday, Yasiel Puig is among the very few remaining available corner outfielders who possess intriguing upside, along with Nicholas Castellanos.

In fact, Castellanos' former club, the Tigers, possibly are in the market for an outfielder, GM Al Avila told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Puig, however, "isn't a priority" for Detroit, according to Avila.

A veteran of seven big league seasons, Puig is only 29 years old, but part of the reason he's still on the open market is that his performance and production on both offense and defense have fluctuated. His 2019, in particular, was underwhelming, as he posted an OPS+ of 100 -- or right at league average.

It's unclear what type of deal Puig is seeking at this stage of the offseason, but with Spring Training nearing, it's becoming more and more likely that he may have to settle for a one-year pact, perhaps as a way to rebuild his value.

What does the future hold for Puig?

Jan. 8: There's been surprisingly little on the rumors front when it comes to Yasiel Puig.

Part of that is the focus to this point has been on other, bigger-name corner outfielders on the open market, like Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Another part of it, however, is that Puig's performance dipped in 2019, as he slashed .267/.327/.458 for an OPS+ at a league average of 100.

For context, his OPS+ marks in 2017 and 2018 were 119 and 120, respectively, meaning he was about 20 percent better than league average over that stretch.

So is last year's downturn a sign of things to come for Puig, or can the 29-year-old get back on track? MLB.com's Andrew Simon explored what it would take for Puig to bounce back in 2020, writing that some "team could make a modest investment this winter and dream on a return to glory" but "for that to come to fruition, something has to change."

Among the teams that have been linked to Puig or that could use a corner outfielder? The White Sox, Marlins, Rangers, A's, Cardinals and Giants.