Free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, a former All-Star who was once considered one of the top young players in the game, has reportedly been offered a contract by the Orioles. SportsNet LA analyst Jerry Hairston Jr. believes that Baltimore should take a chance on Puig.
Puig, 29, spent parts of six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2013-2018) and split last season between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. Last season, he hit.267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 611 plate appearances — the most plate appearances Puig has had in a single season since 2014.
“He’s just hitting his prime, really starting to understand the player he is,” Hairston said on Glenn Clark Radio July 13. “He’s starting to realize that he needs to attack a little bit. There are teams that have passed on him. He’s a good kid, he’s got a good heart. … He works extremely hard and has a tremendous passion for the game of baseball, so I hope he gets a chance to play again because he’s just so talented.”
Puig was an All-Star in 2014 when he hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 homers. The right fielder was named the National League Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. In each of the last three seasons, he has hit no worse than .263 with at least 23 home runs. His 84 RBIs last season were a career high, but so were his 133 strikeouts.
As a former Oriole, Hairston knows what baseball means to the city of Baltimore. The infielder played with the Orioles from 1998-2004. He hit .261/.334/.371 with 26 home runs and 160 RBIs in 530 games. Hairston also played with Puig on the Dodgers in 2013.
He believes Puig would bring a much-needed source of energy to a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer for in recent years.
“With a fan base that’s been so passionate about baseball, they have had so little to cheer about the last couple of years. You bring in a guy like Yasiel Puig and his skill set, I think he adds excitement,” Hairston said.
The Orioles’ outfield is populated with young players. The oldest outfielder is 27-year-old Dwight Smith Jr. who is entering his fourth MLB season. Baltimore currently has four outfielders on the 40-man roster, with Anthony Santander and Smith unavailable for undisclosed reasons.
Asked whether Puig can become a mentor for the younger players, Hairston said he thinks he can fill that role.
“He’s learned a lot, especially these last few years going from L.A. to Cincinnati to Cleveland, he’s learned an awful lot,” Hairston said. “… He can be that type of player to help the younger guys. If you need a right fielder with a cannon of an arm who’s got a lot of skills and is exciting, you can do a whole lot worse than Yasiel.”
With a 60-game season, the trade deadline is Aug. 31 — about a month after Opening Day on July 23. Hairston said that because of the shortened schedule, some teams that didn’t expect to contend for a playoff berth could be interested in trading for Puig if he plays well in the first month.
Last year, Puig was traded to the Indians at the trade deadline in the deal that also sent pitcher Trevor Bauer to the Reds. Puig played in 49 games for Cleveland and only hit two home runs in 207 plate appearances.
“Absolutely, the talent is there. I’ve seen him go off and carry a ballclub for a month,” Hairston said. “… A lot can happen in a month or two, you could be that impact type of player again and show other teams that he’s been a model citizen in Baltimore, he’s been a great player and I think he can help our team win.”
Hairston is looking forward to Opening Day. The Dodgers will host the San Francisco Giants July 23. After speaking with fans in Los Angeles, it’s clear that there are plenty of fans who will be watching alongside him.
“Obviously we’re in uncharted territory. I’m glad that we’re playing, I’m happy for the players,” Hairston said. “… Talking to fans in the L.A. area, they are so yearning for sports. They can’t wait for us to come back just to give them a sense of hope.”
For more from Hairston, listen to the full interview here: