Yasiel Puig of the Cleveland Indians warms up against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park on September 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
A report from Venezuela on Sunday night indicated that former Major Leaguer Yasiel Puig has a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays that includes an invitation to spring training.
Puig is currently playing in Venezuela with the Tiburones de La Guaira, who are 5-0 in the LVBP round robin playoffs.
The deal with Tampa Bay was first reported by Venezuelan journalist Bernabe Perez. A message left with Puig’s agent has yet to be answered, and no other media have confirmed the deal as of Monday afternoon.
On Monday, Francys Romero of Beisbolfr.com reported that multiple MLB teams, including the Rays, are interested in Puig, who has been hot at the plate in winterball.
Puig started the winter league season with the Estrellas Orientales in LIDOM, appearing in 18 games for the Estrellas, and batting .250/.308/.333 with one home run and six RBI.
After completing his contract in LIDOM, Puig was reportedly headed to the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacifico, but ended up with the Tiburones de La Guaira in Venezuela instead.
The 33-year-old has been stellar since arriving in La Guaira, batting .418/.518/.846/ with a 1.364 OPS, 10 homers and 23 RBI in 26 games.
The native of Cienfuegos, Cuba, did not play in the summer of 2023. He spent the 2022 season with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, appearing in 126 games and batting .277/.368/.474 with 21 homers and 73 RBI.
He last appeared in Major League Baseball with Cleveland in 2019, and has appeared in 861 MLB games, batting .277/.348/.475 and hitting 132 homers with Cleveland, Cincinnati, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Late in 2022, Puig reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators during an investigation into an illegal gambling ring in southern California. Puig’s guilty plea was later vacated by the court, and the case remains pending.
A trial date was scheduled for Jan. 16, 2024 before Judge Dolly M. Gee in the United States District Court for the Central District of Calif., but has been put off while the U.S. Attorney’s Office appeals a ruling that Puig did not violate his plea agreement.