Longtime big-league outfielder Yasiel Puig has reached an agreement on a one-year contract with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to the team. Puig’s contract will be worth $1 million, Yonhap News’ Jeeho Yoo reports, which is the maximum amount allowed for a foreign-born player in their first season in KBO.
“I could just see how talented he was,” Heroes’ manager Hyung-wook Ko told Yoo after seeing Puig play in person recently. “I had a chance to speak to him on a few occasions, and I came away with the impression that he was a mature person who was devoted to his family.”
The 31-year-old Puig has not played in the majors since 2019. He did play winter ball last offseason, and this year he appeared in 62 games with Mexico’s El Aguila de Veracruz. Puig batted .312/.409/.517 with 10 home runs. (The team’s line as a whole, for whatever it’s worth, was .291/.356/.454.)
Earlier this year, Puig settled a civil suit that accused him of sexual battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and false imprisonment. Puig confirmed in a statement that he had paid his accuser but denied any wrongdoing. At the time, he stated he intended to return to MLB for the 2022 season.
In parts of seven big-league seasons, Puig hit .277/.348/.475 (122 OPS+) with 132 home runs and 79 stolen bases. He’s accumulated 18.6 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference’s calculations. Most of Puig’s career came with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he also spent time with the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Guardians.
Puig’s time in the majors was marred by concerns about his maturity level. That didn’t stop the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles, among other teams, from pursuing him ahead of the pandemic. Puig never did sign, however, and was left in the cold once again heading into the 2021 season.
The KBO is regarded as being the second biggest Asian league, behind only Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. This past season, the Heroes roster included former big-league players such as Byung-Ho Park, Will Craig, David Freitas, and Eric Jokisch, among others.