Braves move on after Puig's COVID-19 test

July 17th, 2020

ATLANTA -- would have made the Braves better. But it no longer looks like he’ll be playing for them this year.

The Braves had negotiated a deal with Puig this week. But the agreement hinged on the results of a COVID-19 test.

This potential deal officially evaporated on Friday afternoon, when Puig used Instagram to reveal he had tested positive. Puig said he is asymptomatic and added, "I will see you all very soon when I return to play ball."

Coincidently, Puig’s announcement came less than an hour after it was learned Freddie Freeman had received clearance to rejoin the Braves. Freeman tested positive for the virus on July 3. Despite starting to feel better July 5, the All-Star first baseman did not receive his second negative test until Friday morning. MLB requires players who have tested positive to produce two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

With uncertainty about how long it might take for Puig to get the two negative results he would need to begin playing, the Braves will now move on in their attempt to fill a void created on July 6, when Nick Markakis elected not to play this year.

Puig is a veteran outfielder who could have provided assistance at the corner spots. He could have played left field against right-handed pitchers and switched to right field so Adam Duvall could play in left and face southpaw starters.

Now, the Braves need to determine exactly how they will use Marcell Ozuna, whose defensive limitations make him a prime candidate to be the team’s primary designated hitter this season.

Ozuna could play left field against right-handed starters, but it makes more sense to have Duvall at that position against left-handers.

Puig’s presence also would have made it more comfortable for manager Brian Snitker to move Ronald Acuña Jr. to center field on days when Ender Inciarte sits against a lefty. The Braves might now look externally for an outfielder, or possibly use Austin Riley or Johan Camargo in the outfield when necessary.

Riley’s availability to play the outfield became more feasible when Freddie Freeman received clearance to rejoin the team. Riley likely would have been the primary first baseman in Freeman’s absence.