The road to the World Series will undoubtedly be one with zero navigation and two busted headlights, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what little scenery we have in front of us right now.
The Braves are in week six of the ever-confusing 2020 MLB season, and with only four weeks left until the playoffs, they’ve got a good deal of work to do.
Right now, Max Fried is the only standing member of the Opening Day rotation who isn’t on the IL, hasn’t been sent down, or hasn’t been DFA’d (sorry, Folty). Ender Inciarte remains an everyday starter with an average below .200, and the Braves’ captivating young stars, Ronnie and Ozzie, are down with injuries.
Even though Atlanta is in first place, there’s not too much to get excited about, outside of Ian Anderson’s recent emergence. As mentioned earlier, this season kind of feels like a journey on a dark road with the deck stacked against the Braves.
Well, you know what they say, though; every dark road has a light at the end of the tunnel. It could be close, and it very well could be far, but it’s there. You just have to look for it.
For now, the proverbial light at the end of the 2020 tunnel is taking the shape of an outfielder and catcher that AA took a chance on this offseason.
AA Being AA
If you’re reading this, I’m going to safely assume that you’re a Braves fan. If I’m correct and you ARE a Braves fan, then you know Anthopoulus’s offseason tactics all too well by this point.
This offseason, we saw AA dish out a one-year deal to an outfielder betting on himself and a two-year contract to a less-than-well-known catcher coming off a breakout year. The additions of Ozuna and TDA were accepted with different reactions. Admittedly, I was on the side that didn’t like the Ozuna deal.
Being proven wrong has never made me this happy.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 1, 2020
The two significant offensive names the Braves signed are playing like they’re thanking AA for taking a chance on them.
Ozuna has gone above and beyond, once again proving how beneficial one-year contracts can be when you’re confident in your abilities. With the pace he’s going right now, he could post his career’s best slash line.
So…how does his one-year deal stack up against his career in Miami and St. Louis? Well, let’s see.
Before he was traded to the Cardinals, Ozuna saw back-to-back All-Star selections in 2016 and 2017. Following his time in the spotlight of spotlights, we saw him drop off once he reached Missouri. His average and consistency fell, but not all at once. It was more of a gradual slip.
Ozuna went from a year of .312 with 37 HR and 124 RBI to back-to-back seasons with an average under .280 and an OPS+ under 110; he posted a 149 in 2017.
It wasn’t enough to raise a MAJOR alarm, mind you, but enough for Girsch to decide that he wasn’t worth an extension in Birdland.
The Braves have signed Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal. It will be interesting to see how this alters their outfield plans.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 22, 2020
Ozuna isn’t just playing like he wants to prove something to himself and to the fans out there; as I said, he’s playing like he wants to stay in Atlanta, making a statement with every swing of the bat.
The man with the bright green arm sleeve is doing tons of damage at the dish, posting a .295 AVG with 11 HR and 29 RBI’s in 35 games, including a three-homer game last night.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Now, I can’t speak for Ozuna, and this theory doesn’t exactly stack up because of the Josh Donaldson situation this past offseason, but it seems like if you’re playing really well in a particular city, then it’s a wise move for you to stay in that city.
The current free-agent market for outfielders consists of basically George Springer, Joc Pederson, and Michael Brantley, so it makes logical sense for AA to turn back to the guy who has proven he knows how to handle the ball in Atlanta.
The catcher market, though? A lot thinner, unless you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg for Realmuto. You and I both know that AA doesn’t like to dish out huge contracts, so our next guy should all but be a lock for a new contract if AA decides to go that route.
The younger brother of former Brave-turned-rockstar Chase D’Arnaud has been through his fair share of struggles since breaking into the league.
If you do a detailed analysis of his game, you notice he’s no stranger to the minor league option. D’Arnaud has been optioned at least twice every season from 2013 to 2019, where he found himself on two different teams before landing in the city that would turn him into a household name.
TDA saw his best production in the shortest amount of time once he reached Tampa, posting a .263 AVG with 16 HR and 67 RBI. What were his stats with the Mets and Dodgers in 2019, you ask? A combined .083 BA with no home runs or RBIs.
Needless to say, a change of pace and consistent starts behind the dish was all he needed to find his groove.
Given Atlanta’s need for catching while Jackson, Langiliers, and Contreras develop their games, coupled with the lack of external options, D’Arnaud is a prime candidate for AA to peg with a new contract. After his three-hit game last night, he’s now hitting .325 with four homers and 18 RBIs.