Derrick Gold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch went into depth regarding the Cardinals’ most significant offseason decisions, and none may be more intriguing than what the Redbirds plan to do with Marcell Ozuna, who might be the best outfielder on the free-agent market.
Ozuna was a two-time All-Star with the Marlins before being moved to St. Louis, where he was productive but probably not as much so as the Cardinals would have liked. His best season with the Redbirds came last season when he smashed 29 homers and recorded an OPS of .800 – still a far cry from the .924 OPS he posted in his final year with the Marlins. Despite the minor drop off at the plate, however, Ozuna will still fetch interest from all teams in need of outfield help, and the Braves are one of many doing their due diligence.
“The interest in Ozuna gained some clarity for his agent Melvin Roman this week as he met with teams,” Gold says in his report. “At least six teams have expressed initial interest in Ozuna and according to multiple sources that group includes the Reds and the White Sox. Atlanta and Texas also have some interest. The Cardinals and Ozuna’s agent both say they remain in contact. Ozuna has expressed an interest in remaining with the Cardinals. The Cardinals are reluctant to commit the amount of years Ozuna seeks.”
While Ozuna would add a boost to Atlanta’s corner outfield situation, there are a couple of things that make this news feel more like a rumor in regards to the Braves.
First, the Cardinals offered Ozuna a qualifying offer, which means the Braves would have to forfeit a draft pick to acquire him. They already lost a pick when they added Will Smith last week, and Atlanta has shown hesitancy signing players who require draft compensation because of their already tight restrictions in the international market.
Secondly, The Braves re-signed Nick Markakis to a one-year, $4 million contract. They also have Ronald Acuña, Ender Inciarte, Austin Riley, Johan Camargo, and Charlie Culberson available to man an outfield spot. While Ozuna would be an upgrade, I’m not sure it would be enough of one to dole out the required money and surrender draft compensation.
This is likely a case of the player’s agent stirring the pot. Is there a scenario where the Braves might be more interested? Yes, if guys like Josh Donaldson and Madison Bumgarner become too pricey, perhaps Atlanta would turn towards Ozuna as a backup plan. But for now, I don’t think the priorities have changed. The Braves still want to re-sign Donaldson and add to their starting rotation first; Alex Anthopoulos is merely doing what he is required by evaluating potential backup plans.