Rumors: Texas Rangers showing interest in free agent Yasiel Puig

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 31: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Cleveland Indians bats in the third inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on August 31, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 31: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Cleveland Indians bats in the third inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on August 31, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /
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The Texas Rangers are looking at potential right-handed hitting outfielders for 2020 and per reports, they’ve shown interest in free agent Yasiel Puig.

Just a day after Jon Heyman connected the Texas Rangers with Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte, the club has been linked with free agent Yasiel Puig. Puig, who has become one of the more entertaining characters in the game, has been linked with a number of teams and has seen his market heat up more recently. Hector Gomez, based out of the Dominican Republic, tweeted out Friday afternoon an update on Puig’s market and noted the Rangers interest, which is the first connection I’ve heard between the two parties.

Puig would be a strange addition for the Rangers who admittedly, could be in the market for another outfielder. After the departures of Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields via trades, the club doesn’t have the most confidence inspiring group patrolling the outfield. Joey Gallo is the only player in the group that is a plus on both sides of the ball with Willie Calhoun and Danny Santana swinging important bats, but lacking with the glove. Scott Heineman, who is the likely fourth outfielder at this point, has some decent defensive qualities but his sample size is so small, entering 2020 relying heavily on his performance would be unwise.

The problem with Puig though wouldn’t be his bat, which could be a welcomed right-handed addition to a lefty heavy lineup. The problem is, he doesn’t really have a defensive fit in the Rangers lineup. He’s been exclusively a right fielder for three seasons now and not a great one at that. Texas has already made clear their plans to keep Joey Gallo in right field long-term. With Willie Calhoun limited to left, Texas is more in the market for a potential center field option rather than another corner guy.

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Earlier this offseason we saw Evan Grant note that the Rangers had communicated with another free agent outfielder, Nick Castellanos, about a potential move to first base. Perhaps the Rangers have similar plans for Puig although there’s been nothing mentioned along those lines. If this was a case of interest in the bat and figuring out the defensive positioning later, that would make some sense. In 149 games last season Puig posted a .267 average and .785 OPS last season which was a down year for the 29-year old. He did hit 20-plus home runs for the third consecutive season and the talent is undeniable.

There’s some thought that Puig is looking for a one-year deal to restore his value which could interest Texas. Yasiel had a solid 2018 season when he posted a 1.8 fWAR and an .820 OPS in 125 games for the Dodgers but has yet to recapture the numbers he posted in the 2013 and 2014 seasons when he really broke onto the Major League scene.

This deal feels like a long shot as there’s a ton of hurdles to overcome. Puig is an under-performing, bat-first player without a defensive home. Texas doesn’t need a DH at this point and it’s hard justifying investment into excess when the Rangers still have legitimate needs throughout the roster. The White Sox and Marlins are the most likely destinations per Gomez and we can probably file the Rangers interest away under the category, “Due Diligence”.

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