The Marcell Ozuna signing should make level-headed Braves fans ecstatic. I know most people wanted to hang on to Josh Donaldson but going potentially five years without any certainty that there will be a DH in the National League soon could have been a grave mistake, and it is a risk the Braves can’t afford to take. Given the financial restrictions placed on them by Liberty Media, one false move could cut Atlanta’s championship window in half. By signing Ozuna to a one-year deal, the Braves reload for 2020 while keeping their options wide open for 2021 with all their core pieces still intact.
It’s also lovely to hear that Ozuna was just as interested in a one-year, prove-it contract as Atlanta was. According to Jon Heyman, the Braves new left fielder turned down multiple multi-year offers for the opportunity to play with a contender and so he could bet on himself. Ozuna is as motivated as ever after back-to-back down years (for his standards) and takes over at a position where the Braves needed the most help.
Contrary to popular belief, third base was not the biggest hole on the roster before the Ozuna signing. According to Fangraphs ZiPS projections, Austin Riley and Johan Camargo should be able to limit the damage from his departure just fine. However, the same could not be said about the Braves’ left-field situation that looked to be heading towards a platoon of Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall. Those two do not cut it on a team with championship aspirations, but with Ozuna now in the fold, the Braves will once again have one of the most formidable starting nine in the majors. The question now is, what’s next?
Alex Anthopoulos could be done, and if I were a betting man, I’d say there is a 95% chance this is the group the Braves roll into spring training with. It’s unlikely there are any significant additions made over the next month. However, that does not mean the Braves are done polishing this roster for a championship run in 2020.
While free agency may be over, the trade market has been much more quiet. Only a couple of substantial trades have been made this winter, and that includes the deal today between the Diamondbacks and Pirates for Starling Marte. There are still a ton of starting pitchers, who may not be readily available now, that will be shopped around before the July 31st trade deadline. There is also a bevy of position players that could be moved, starting with Kris Bryant and Nolan Arendado and continuing with names such as Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor. Not much has been spoken on the trade front of late, and that may mean no deal is imminent. But with so many prospects at his disposal, expect Alex Anthopoulos to be right in the middle of things when it starts to heat up.
Signing Ozuna did two things for the Braves: it kept payroll beyond 2020 extremely low, and it allowed them to keep all of their coveted prospects. Both of those things increase the likelihood of them being involved in a blockbuster trade before July 31st.