Former Cleveland outfielder Yasiel Puig is attempting his baseball comeback, signing a one-year deal with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization.
There was once a time when Yasiel Puig was one of the most exciting young players in baseball, finishing second in the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year vote and making the All-Star team in 2014 while finishing in the top 20 of the MVP vote as well. It was a good time to have Puig’s rookie card.
And even though the 31-year-old has a career .277/.348/.475 line and 122 OPS+, no major-league team has been after his services since Cleveland acquired him in the Trevor Bauer trade back in 2019.
But Puig is still playing baseball and still plotting a potential major-league comeback, signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Kiwoom Hereos of the Korea Baseball Organization this week.
There are a number of reasons why Puig hasn’t played in the big leagues for two years. The biggest is that it’s always been clear he’s a pain to deal with in the clubhouse. That was always the case in Los Angeles (the minute he wasn’t putting up MVP numbers, it seemed the Dodgers wanted to ship him out) and it certainly appeared to be true with manager Terry Francona in Cleveland.
Not to mention Puig is a connoisseur of the bench-clearing brawl, having taken part in a few during his major-league days and, most recently, sparking a melee during his time in the Mexican League. Personally, I think the majors need more guys like that.
And while Puig did seemingly have a deal in place with the Atlanta Braves in 2020, a positive COVID-19 test ended that opportunity.
More seriously, Puig has also been the subject of sexual assault allegations in the past. Earlier this year, a woman alleged in a lawsuit that Puig had assaulted her at a Los Angeles Lakers game in 2018; Puig denied the allegations, claiming he engaged in consensual sex with the woman, and the lawsuit was settled in October.
So with all of this in mind, it’s not exactly surprising to see why major-league teams haven’t been jumping at the chance to sign Puig. But he must have been really tough to play with, because he truly put together an impressive seven seasons in the majors.
In Cleveland specifically, Puig had 182 at-bats in 49 games in 2019 and hit .297/.377/.423 with two home runs, 15 doubles, 23 RBIs, five stolen bases and a 109 OPS+. It’s hard to imagine those kinds of numbers not looking pretty darn nice in the Guardians lineup right about now.
If Puig lights the KBO on fire, and maybe stays out of a bench-clearing brawl while overseas (though has anyone ever done it in three different countries?), there could still be light at the end of the tunnel for his major-league career.