- Braves sign veteran outfielder Yasiel Puig to one-year deal
- Puig will replace Nick Markakis, who opted out of the 2020 season last week
- Puig hit 24 home runs last season across 149 games with Cincinnati and Cleveland
Last week, Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis announced that he would sit out the truncated 2020 season. Markakis isn’t the biggest power threat, but his patient eye and ability to hit right-handed pitching has made him a crucial cog in the heart of the Braves’ lineup in recent years.
While Markakis’ announcement didn’t have much of an effect on the Braves’ World Series odds, the decision did leave Atlanta a bit short in the outfield. Ronald Acuna Jr. may well have slid from center to right field, while Ender Inciarte stood to earn a little more playing time in center. Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna were likely to split time between left field and DH.
Puig To The Rescue?
Rather than dig into their depth chart, however, the Braves have decided to go outside the organization to find Markakis replacement. Per Mark Feinsand, Atlanta has decided to bring in former Dodgers standout Yasiel Puig:
Yasiel Puig is signing with the Braves, per source.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 14, 2020
Puig split time between Cincinnati and Cleveland in 2019 after a trade from the Dodgers to the Reds before the season. In 49 games with the Indians at the end of last season, the Cuban slugger hit .252/.302/.475 with two homers and 23 RBI. In all, he smashed 24 home runs across 149 games between Cleveland and Cincy.
For his career, Puig is a .277 hitter. He has been a solid defensive outfielder over the course of his career, as well, and his cannon of an arm should make him a natural fit to replace Markakis in right field for the Braves. That will likely slide Acuna back to his natural center field spot, while Ozuna and Duvall are likely to share duties in left.
Puig Adds Power to Braves’ Lineup
Puig will add an element of power that Markakis didn’t bring to the table, which should make the Braves’ offense even more fearsome. Atlanta’s hitters totaled 26.9 WAR last season, which was the seventh-most in the majors. Acuna and Freddie Freeman are legitimate MVP candidates in the National League, while Ozuna and Puig have All-Star appearances on their respective resumes.
Before signing with the Braves, Puig had reportedly gotten an offer from the Baltimore Orioles. The 29-year-old was clearly the best free agent hitter still available. With the season just over a week from getting underway, it will be interesting to see whether Puig will be ready to join the Braves’ lineup on Opening Day.
Braves Favored To Take NL East Title
Puig isn’t as disciplined a hitter as Markakis is, but he’s an upgrade in just about every other conceivable area. Atlanta is already among the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. Their +1300 odds rank fourth in the majors behind only the Dodgers (+375), Yankees (+400), and Astros (+850).
The Braves have won the NL East title in back-to-back seasons, but they are still looking for their first trip to the NLCS since 2001. Atlanta was upset by the Cardinals in five games last season after being beaten by the Dodgers in four games in 2018. The Braves have lost each of their last 10 playoff series overall.
The NL East is expected to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Atlanta is a +215 favorite, but the reigning World Series champion Nationals (+250), Mets (+275), and Phillies (+315) aren’t too far behind.
The Braves will open the season on the road against the Mets on Friday, July 24. Earlier Tuesday, the Braves announced that right-hander Mike Soroka will start against New York. The 22-year-old will become the youngest Opening Day starter in Braves history.