Trying to make sense of the Puig report

The hot stove doesn’t have much cooking with the Orioles. Rebuilding teams tend to sit on the national media’s back burner. And clubs that tend to do some of their heaviest lifting in spring training are going to get lighter coverage in November and December.

The Orioles finally are tied to a free agent, with reporting again per sources that there’s interest in veteran outfielder Yasiel Puig.

Makes even less sense to me now than earlier in the year.

Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. were late arrivals to summer training camp due to positive COVID-19 tests and the club had no idea whether they’d be ready for opening day. Trey Mancini was undergoing chemotherapy treatments and unavailable until 2021.

Santander and Smith made the roster. The Braves signed Puig and backed out of the deal after he tested positive.

End of story.

Or that version of it.

Puig-Swings-Indians-Sidebar.jpgPuig, who turns 30 in December, didn’t play in 2020 and he’s on the market again. A minor league deal won’t get it done. There has to be more of a commitment, though for one year and with plenty of incentives.

The latest report states that the Orioles, Astros and Red Sox have Puig “on their radar.” Not the same as making an offer, of course. The terminology is wide open to interpretation.

It could mean internal discussions or contact with his new representative, Rachel Luba of Luba Sports. It could mean nothing or signal that the Orioles are focused on more than pitching and infield and catching depth.

Puig appeared in 149 games last season between the Reds and Indians and slashed .267/.327/.458 with 30 doubles, two triples, 24 home runs and 84 RBIs. He owns a career .348 on-base percentage in seven seasons and hit a career-high 28 home runs with the Dodgers in 2017.

He’s also a big personality who has managed to find controversy with the same ease that I’m able to locate my kitchen, but the Orioles obviously did their homework on him. I’m just wondering about the fit.

Mancini expects to be ready for opening day. Santander was voted Most Valuable Oriole as the regular right fielder and chosen as a finalist for a Gold Glove. Ryan Mountcastle is projected to play left field and some first base. Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins are candidates for center field and a corner position. Yusniel Diaz is going to debut later in the summer and Ryan McKenna also is in the mix. DJ Stewart remains on the 40-man roster after his home run binge in September.

Chris Shaw was claimed off waivers Wednesday from the Giants. He’s a corner outfielder and first baseman with a career .279/.340/.520 slash line with 109 home runs in five minor league seasons. He had 27 doubles and 28 home runs with 94 RBIs in 2019 over 120 games with Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento.

The Orioles need an outfielder like I need a second kitchen.

The decision to declare Renato Núñez designated for assignment was spurred in part because the designated hitter spot could catch some of the outfield overflow. There were other factors, of course.

Puig wrote on Twitter that he wants next year to be a new chapter.

How the Orioles, still rebuilding and wanting to evaluate their young talent, work their way into the story still leaves me confused.

Puig could make them more competitive with his power and career .348 on-base percentage. He could be flipped to a contender at the deadline. But which player is bumped from the lineup?

Would the Orioles start Mountcastle in left, Hays in center, Santander in right, Mancini at first base and Puig as the DH?

This is one way to make it work, with other combinations available to them.

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