Look at all the gifts that the Marlins allowed their fans to open early this holiday season! As of Christmas Eve 2019, they’ve added a durable and dynamic infielder (Jonathan Villar), a plump and personable slugger (Jesús Aguilar), a strong arm who attacks the zone (Yimi García) and a beloved backstop in Francisco Cervelli. They even came back from the thrift shop with some intriguing castoffs that could prove useful in the right scenarios. It’s a refreshingly accelerated pace from last year, when the gratification was delayed by the interminable J.T. Realmuto trade saga.
However, there is a significant difference between being pleased about this progress and being satisfied that the team has done enough to take a leap toward relevancy in 2020. Major League Baseball owners continue to haul in revenue at an unprecedented rate (via Maury Brown, Forbes). Yet the Fish as currently constructed would have a lower payroll than the previous campaign and one of the five lowest in the league.
Miami’s offseason moves thus far have received rave reviews for balancing solid upside with minimal risk.
But why does it seem that so many in South Florida are content with a roster that’s all but certain to finish dead last in the NL East for a third straight year? There are still wonderful options on the open market that suit the organization’s needs in multiple ways, and they won’t be available much longer. One free agent in particular sits atop the revised wish list:
Sign Yasiel Puig. Pleeeeeeeeeeease do it.
During the past two seasons combined, the Marlins have had the National League’s least-valuable outfield. Talented prospects like Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez will be knocking on the door soon, and there is nowhere to go but up for Matt Kemp after a nightmarish 2019. Overall, though, the existing internal options are very volatile.
Puig would raise the Marlins’ floor at the position. A lifetime .277/.348/.475 hitter, he’s been better than league average at the plate, according to weighted runs created-plus, in every season of his career. His throwing arm has been better than league average, according to Defensive Runs Saved, in every season of his career. There is comfort in having somebody who has been there, done that and is still in his physical prime (he turned 29 earlier this month).
My offseason training with sumo wrestlers in Japan pic.twitter.com/HmqAaGpEej— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) December 14, 2019
Also, Puig wants to be here! He played under Don Mattingly when both were with the Dodgers from 2013-2015, which happened to be the most effective period of his career. In a recent meeting with Marlins executives, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports, Puig expressed interest in reuniting. And CEO Derek Jeter? He was Puig’s childhood idol.
I cannot endorse every decision he’s ever made—a younger Puig had bouts of insubordination, on and off the field, that understandably proliferated his selfish reputation.
But there is reason to believe that he has changed. For three-plus years, the Wild Horse Children’s Foundation has hosted events internationally to serve underprivileged youth.
Today was one of the best days of my life. I want to thank so many people, starting with all of my new friends at @campsimcha. Thank you for welcoming me and giving me your smiles today. You are my inspiration and when I do good things on the field I will do it for you. pic.twitter.com/uSSrYX2ibW— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) August 20, 2019
Puig himself is now a father of twin boys. Conveniently, the family makes their offseason home in Miami.
Fellow outfielder Avisaíl García signed with the Brewers for a two-year, $20 million deal. The Marlins had substantial interest in him, but per multiple reports, were unwilling to match that price.
Puig has a comparable free agent case to García in terms of position, age, 2019 productivity and his potential to improve on that thanks to rare physical tools. His marketing value far exceeds García’s, however, because of his genuine, infectious personality and Cuban heritage. Hopefully, that convinces Marlins ownership to invest whatever it takes, even if that goes well beyond their comfort zone from the past couple winters.
Bring Puig home for Christmas.