Chicago Cubs should steer clear of Yasiel Puig this winter

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

With the likes of Nicholas Castellanos available, the Chicago Cubs would be ill-advised to waste money on other outfield options – namely Yasiel Puig.

After spending a rather disappointing season split between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians, this winter, Yasiel Puig will become a free agent for the first time in his Major League career.

On the year, the Cuban-born slugger turned in a .327 on-base percentage with 42 home runs and 84 RBI. Still, he seemed rejuvenated after joining the Indians, slashing an impressive .297/.377/.423 mark in 207 plate appearances. The power numbers weren’t there in Cleveland, but you’ll take that average and OBP any day of the week.

One of his biggest weaknesses has to be his swing-and-miss tendencies. He struck out in 22 percent of his plate appearances this season. So, despite his .333 career average at Wrigley Field, where he’s hit five home runs and driven in 13 in 24 games, the Chicago Cubs should absolutely think twice here.

The former Los Angeles Dodgers standout, known as “The Wild Horse,” is recognized for his powerful cut as much as he is his loud personality. The most recent instance of Puig showing his true colors occurred this past season during his brief stint with the Reds, minutes after he was reportedly traded to Cleveland.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Reds found themselves in a benches-clearing situation and punches were thrown. Of course, Puig was in the middle of it all and ended up being restrained, and suspended for three games for his role in the incident.

This wasn’t the first and it probably won’t be the last altercation of Puig’s career, regardless of what team he winds up on. In the end, his personality will definitely be a factor that teams will be looking at this free agency.

All of this may very well lead to Puig having to settle for a smaller deal this winter. His price tag won’t just be tied to his performance on the field, but his antics off it, as well. Still, a discount is a discount, and given the fact the Cubs front office has swung and missed on big ticket free agents, a safer approach could seem appealing to Theo Epstein.

The most glaring example of this? Chicago right fielder Jason Heyward, who has been under the microscope since coming to the team prior to the 2016 campaign. In the midst of an eight-year, $184 million deal, Heyward hit  .251/.343/.429 in the 2019 season.

This suboptimal performance could be attributed to the fact that Heyward was moved from right to center in order to accommodate Nicholas Castellanos or his all-advised turn atop the order as the team’s leadoff hitter, a spot in the order in which he clearly wasn’t comfortable.

A mid-season trade acquisition, Castellanos made a huge impact on the team, keeping the Cubs in the postseason race right down to the end of the year. The former Detroit Tigers outfielder hit .321 in the span of 51 games, driving in 36 runs and bringing an infectious energy to the club.

Over the entirety of the season, Castellanos averaged .289 and hit a career-high 58 doubles and 27 home runs in 151 games split between the Tigers and Cubs. As someone who has played 151 contests in each of his last three seasons, Castellanos’ durability is something that could be incredibly valuable to Chicago.

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As the saying goes, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it.’ Instead of looking toward a free agent like Puig, why not re-sign Castellanos? If the Cubs are going to spend on a right fielder anyway, it would make the most sense to bring back the guy who sparked their team down the stretch in 2019.