In case you missed it, the Phillies officially inked JT Realmuto to a five-year, $115 million contract. It had previously been reported that the Braves had interest in the All-Star catcher, but it was always doubtful they were going to top the Phillies offer. Now, Atlanta is in a precarious position with just weeks before pitchers and catchers are supposed to show up for spring training.
After the signings of Springer and Realmuto, there’s not much left on the free-agent market outside of Marcell Ozuna. Sure, the Braves could do a lot worse than Jackie Bradley Jr. or Joc Pederson, but it’s become quite clear that, if the Braves don’t sign Marcell Ozuna, there team will likely be significantly worse than last season, which isn’t what fans wanted to hear after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Even if the Braves do manage to bring back Ozuna, it’s still going to be difficult to be better than they were a year ago. While the Big Bear was unbelievable for Atlanta last season, nearly taking home the NL Triple Crown, that was a career year for him, and it happened over a shortened 60-game schedule. There’s plenty of evidence to believe that, had it been a full season, he eventually would have cooled off.
Ozuna only has one other season (2017) where he hit above .280. Most recently over a full schedule, he hit .241 with the Cardinals. His power last year also likely wasn’t sustainable. Ozuna only has one season where he hit over 30 home runs and averaged just over 24 from 2014-2016. His career OPS is .801 compared to the 1.069 mark he put up in 2020.
I love the Big Bear and believe much of his success is sustainable based on how hard he hits the baseball and being in a loaded Braves offense. However, a very solid argument could be made that handing him the four-year deal he is looking for would be a colossal mistake — one that could hamstring Alex Anthopoulos smack-dab in the middle of the Braves championship window. That is the last thing the Braves want. However, after the Realmuto signing, it feels a lot like it is Ozuna or bust.
We will see what happens in the coming weeks. I imagine Ozuna will sign sooner rather than later. But with the DH not coming to the NL, the Braves don’t have very many inspiring options. They could always make a blockbuster trade; Anthopoulos certainly has the prospects to make that happen. However, the free-agent market is becoming barren, and the Braves still haven’t made a big move since before Thanksgiving.
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