Braves: With Springer and Brantley off the market, can the Braves afford Marcell Ozuna?

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Free agency has been as slow as possible this offseason; however, we knew it had to speed up eventually, and it’s exploded over the last week or so. Relievers have been signing with teams left and right, but most recently, two of the top free-agent outfielders — George Springer and Michael Brantley — found new homes.

Originally, it was reported that they both signed with the Blue Jays, but that turned out to be pre-mature. Springer will be headed to Toronto, and it was just announced that Michael Brantley is returning to Houston.

Now, this would have been even more true had the Blue Jays been able to ink both star players. But still, with two of the top three outfield free-agents unavailable, outfield-needy teams are in a pickle. The market was already thin, and now all eyes are on Marcell Ozuna.

The Big Bear was electric for the Braves last season, nearly winning the NL Triple Crown, as he led the league in home runs, RBIs, and total bases. Had it not been for his abysmal defense, he very well might have stolen the MVP from his teammate Freddie Freeman. On top of being arguably the best bat in baseball, though, he was also a perfect fit in a Braves locker room that never lacked an ounce of confidence. Understandably, everyone in the organization would love to have him back, but the latest two contracts handed to Springer and Brantley have made it that much more difficult.

According to reports, most suitors for Springer were willing to offer him somewhere in the $125 million range… until the Blue Jays upped the ante and gave him $150 million over six years.

At two years, $32 million, Brantley’s contract is much more palatable, but a $16 million AAV for a 34-year-old with an injury history is still a sign that the market isn’t as cold as some might have expected. And considering the list of currently available free agents, that should make Ozuna and his agent giddy with excitement. Meanwhile, this could be the nail in the Braves’ coffin as far as the Marcell Ozuna sweepstakes are concerned.

Buster Olney already reported over the weekend that it was unlikely for the Braves to bring back the Big Bear because of their financial situation. And while it was more of a speculative statement than reporting, it shouldn’t shock anyone given the history of Liberty Media and Alex Anthopoulos. They don’t hand out long-term deals to aging free agents, especially ones with inconsistent track records. And if the Braves were already pinching pennies to sign Ozuna days ago, they might not have a chance anymore. The ball is in his court, and things could get much pricier than Atlanta is willing to go.

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