The Indians should re-sign Yasiel Puig before spring training

The Tribe should offer Puig a short-term contract

James Rapien
January 30, 2020 - 12:24 pm
Aug 29, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) licks his bat during the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH — The Indians have put themselves in position to make a splash before spring training.

Instead of sitting on their hands and waiting to see if Daniel Johnson or any of their other young outfielders emerge, they should be aggressive and re-sign Yasiel Puig.

Puig, 29, finished the 2019 season in Cleveland. He quickly became a fan favorite and was productive during his two months with the Tribe, posting a .297/.377/.423 slash line in 49 games.

He’s not the star that some think he is, but a short-term deal with Puig would make a lot of sense for him and the Indians.

President Chris Antonetti should offer Puig a one-year contract for $10-12 million. The veteran outfielder may want a player option for 2021 to offer him some security. It’s hard to envision a team offering Puig more than two years, especially with Marcell Ozuna settling for a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves.

Instead of settling for less money long-term, a one or two-year deal would give Puig a chance to play for a good team with hopes of contention, before testing free agency again next offseason.

The Indians’ 2020 payroll is under $90 million. They should have the financial flexibility to bring Puig into the mix and still be able to add to the roster at the trade deadline like they’ve done in recent seasons.

Not only did they shed salary this offseason, but they also plugged their major holes without spending top dollar. The Indians dealt Corey Kluber to the Rangers for right-hander Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.

Clase is an instant upgrade to the bullpen. He could be the flamethrower they need to compliment Brad Hand. The haul for Kluber was underwhelming on the surface, but using some of his salary to bring Puig back to Cleveland would make the trade much easier to understand. 

The Indians signed César Hernández to a one-year, $6.25 million contract, which fills the void Jason Kipnis left at second base.

Trading Trevor Bauer and Kluber helped cut the Indians’ payroll, which should allow them to make another addition or two before spring training. Much like Hernández, the Indians could sign an outfielder to a short-term contract.

Puig is the perfect fit. There have been some rumblings behind the scenes about him not having a great relationship with manager Terry Francona. Even if the two had their issues, Francona can handle the biggest personalities — including Puig. There were times when he arrived at the ballpark later than some of his teammates.

Puig is a flawed player. There’s a reason he hasn’t been signed yet. He isn’t a perfect hitter or outfielder, but he has elite physical tools.

Even with his shortcomings, Puig would make the Indians a better team. He’s a plug-and-play right fielder that would likely return to Cleveland extremely motivated after being forced to take a ‘prove-it’ deal in free agency.

The Indians were never interested in signing Puig to a long-term contract, but a one-year deal is something they’d have to consider.

There has been plenty of talk about alignment in Cleveland recently. If Puig signed a one-year deal with an option in 2021, it would align with Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor’s contracts.

Maintaining long-term flexibility is important for the Indians as they continue to retool their roster. Bringing Puig back won’t get in the way of young players like Johnson, who hope to be a big part of the future. Instead, it’ll give the Tribe a proven option next to Oscar Mercado, who will likely start in center field. 

Signing Puig to a one or two-year contract is a no-brainer for the Indians. It would be the type of bargain the organzation looks for in free agency.

The Indians don’t need to sign big money free agents, but Puig should be playing his home games at Progressive Field this season.