He may be too abrasive for some fans, but Yasiel Puig could fill a role for the St. Louis Cardinals just as well as Marcell Ozuna. Why is Puig a great idea?
There is probably going to be a big section of readers that hate this idea based off the title alone. However, if you give it some true thought and listen to what I’m about to say, you might be persuaded that Yasiel Puig is a good option for the St. Louis Cardinals to consider.
If you are a fan who is arguing that the Cardinals are idiots for letting Marcell Ozuna walk away without an honest pursuit, just know that Yasiel Puig can produce just as good or better numbers at a fraction of the cost that Ozuna will be.
Disagree? Let’s dig into some numbers.
In his two years with the Cardinals, Marcell Ozuna was six and then seven percent above average offensively. That is total value added to the lineup in all the ways he helps. His 52 combined homers and 177 combined RBIs were great but without much on-base ability and his streakiness, the end result was six and seven percent above league average with the bat and an average OPS of .777.
As bad as he may have seemed, he actually was still above average with the glove in left field by DRS, even if he had some ugly errors every once in a while.
The counting stats like homers and RBIs as well as the now distant memory of the 2016 season where Ozuna was a monster with the bat (49% above average with a .924 OPS) have driven Ozuna to the top of the free-agent outfielder list. This isn’t a knock on Ozuna as the potential is still there, he just hasn’t actually been as amazing as everyone may think.
While it’s a good possibility that the young options the Cardinals have could match or beat those numbers, an outside bargain that fills that role is Yasiel Puig.
Admittedly, Puig was worse than Ozuna in 2019. He was exactly average OPS+-wise but he did have an OPS 10 points higher than Ozuna’s. In the last two years, Puig has averaged a 110 OPS+, .802 OPS, 24 homers, and 74 RBIs. That’s not quite the same power numbers, but with a more consistent batting average (.267) each year and the same on-base level, Puig and Ozuna have been remarkably similar. Ozuna has averaged 47 XBH the last two years, Puig has averaged 51.
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You also have to consider where the two players bat in the lineup. Batting position mostly affects RBI totals, and Ozuna has batted almost exclusively cleanup for the Cardinals the last two years. In the two years with the Cardinals, Ozuna has batted cleanup in 273 of the 278 games he’s played in. That’s a whopping 98% of his appearances in the best spot for RBIs in the lineup.
Puig, on the other hand, has batted in the cleanup spot just 103 games in the 274 he played in the past two seasons. That’s just 37% of his games. The majority of Puig’s games in 2018 (where he batted cleanup just twice) were with the high powered Dodgers lineup and Puig still hit 23 homers and drove in 63 hitting all over the lineup.
As the Reds’ and Indians’ primary cleanup man in 2019, Puig hit 24 homers and drove in 84, just five fewer runs than Ozuna did with the Cardinals. The other aspect of the game that Puig brings is speed. In the past two years, Puig has stolen 34 bases. Ozuna, on the other hand, has stolen just 15.
On the defensive side of the ball, Puig has been about the same levels as Ozuna, which again is right above average. The one thing fans wouldn’t have to worry about with Puig though is his arm.
This video might be from four years ago, but let me say that his arm strength has not diminished like Ozuna’s.
In all, Puig would be just as valuable on offense as Ozuna (with a more recent chance for more value) and has more defensive and base running tools than Ozuna, even though Ozuna improved his baserunning in 2019.
It seems that the biggest perceived obstacle to signing Puig would be his integration into the clubhouse. Back in 2014, when the Cardinals were a never-ending thorn in the side of the Dodgers during the playoffs, Puig was the center of a small skirmish.
As you can see here, it doesn’t really look like Puig and Yadi were great friends at the time. Cardinals fans may just think Puig is some punk that doesn’t deserve to wear the sacred Cardinal red, I think that is BS.
That was five years ago and I can’t even speculate what the relationship is like between the two at the present. Puig does play with some fire, whether it’s licking his bat or getting in fights, something he apparently does often.
This was in 2018, then as recently as July of 2019, Puig eagerly hopped in the infamous Amir Garrett vs. the entire Pirates bench fight.
Traditionalists may not like it, but the Cardinals are frankly a team that could use some more fire. Puig is odd and peculiar, but at the end of the day, he provides some fire in the clubhouse and can provide similar production as Ozuna at a bit of a discount.
As far as that contract, multiple projections have similar ideas about what Puig will make. Bleacher Report has Puig signing a two year, $25M deal and mlbdailydish.com has him at four years, $48M. I am sure there are more predictions out there, but the consensus is that Puig is going to get $12-13M a year and that is going to be $5-8M less than what Ozuna will get a year.
I would be happy signing the 29-year-old for either of those two projected deals and you should too. Puig would be a character in the clubhouse that the Cardinals haven’t had for a while. He’s exciting and backs it up with his play on the field. Puig is the perfect bargain that we have seen the Cardinals go after in the past.