With Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting free agency, the Red Sox are left with a very clear hole in their outfield. On the surface it would seem that they need to fine a center fielder specifically, though it’s not quite that simple. That is the ideal scenario, but if they have to the team is comfortable with Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verduo sliding over and signing a new corner outfielder. It’s not entirely clear what their plan is — there have been rumors they are interested in bringing Bradley back at the right price — but we did get our first rumor involving them with a corner infielder. That would be Yasiel Puig, and Mark Feinsand reports Boston is one team known to have interest in the former Dodger and Indian.
Feinsand’s report indicates Boston is joined by Houston and Baltimore in their interest of Puig. Those teams make sense as the Astros lost Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick in free agency while the Orioles have holes just about everywhere and had previously shown interest in Puig prior to this past season.
Speaking of this past season, Puig did not participate in the 2020 season. He was a free agent last winter and went unsigned into spring training, all the way up to the point where the season was postponed. Once things got started up again he was going to sign a deal with the Braves, who at the time had Nick Markakis recently opt out of the season. (Markakis would later change his mind and come back.) However, Puig tested positive for COVID before he actually signed, and he ended up sitting out the entire season. It also needs to be mentioned that Puig was also recently accused of sexual assault regarding an incident that allegedly took place in 2018. He denies the allegations.
So, the last time we saw Puig on the field was in 2019 when he started the year with the Reds before getting traded to the Indians. In that season he struggled to get going too much, finishing the year with an essentially average 101 wRC+. In the two seasons prior to that, however, he had marks of 117 and 123 with the Dodgers. At his best, Puig will make a solid amount of contact and usually hit the ball hard when he does connect. Over his entire career, the 29-year-old (he’ll be 30 in a couple of weeks) has a 124 wRC+.
As for how he fits with the Red Sox, it’s hard to say for sure without having seen him play recently. That said, the assumption here would be that he’d be in right field with former Dodgers teammate Verdugo moving over to center. Puig has been a strong defensive right fielder in the past with a great arm, though the metrics have pegged him as more average than great in the last few years overall. It’s possible they could see him as a left fielder with Benintendi moving to center.
For what it’s worth, FanGraphs readers have Puig getting a two-year deal worth $22 million, though I would be surprised if it took multiple years to get Puig. I also wouldn’t expect the Red Sox to be in if it took more than one year. That’s getting ahead of ourselves, though. For now, it’s just interest and the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that are showing interest in the outfielder. More than anything, it shows that the team is looking at all outfield options and not limiting themselves to center field.