Will the Braves seriously consider dumping the contract of Marcell Ozuna?

Braves Marcell Ozuna

The meat of the Braves order has started to heat up, and as a result, Atlanta has reeled off 11 straight wins, cutting the Mets’ lead in the NL East to 5.5 games. They’ve also firmly put themselves into the thick of the Wild Card race. If the playoffs began today, the Braves would be apart of the postseason. There’s a lot to be excited about when talking about the defending champs as we approach the midway point of the season, but one particular player continues to look like a black eye on the resumĂ© of Alex Anthopoulos.

After nearly winning the NL triple crown with the Braves during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Anthopoulos chose to ink Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $65 million contract. Nothing good has come of it since — both on and off the field.

Following a slow start to 2021, Ozuna was arrested on domestic battery charges. He was placed on administrative leave soon after while the details of his case emerged and was never heard from until the offseason when the league decided to hand him a 20-game suspension retroactive to the 2021 season. Ozuna was cleared to start 2022 on the field, even if it made a large portion of Braves fans unhappy.

I imagine Alex Anthopoulos explored trading Ozuna prior to the start of the season, but it was probably nearly impossible to do unless the Braves ate most of the money or included some top-notch prospects. At that point, I understood why Anthopoulos decided to ride it out with Ozuna, even if it meant bad publicity, but now it’s his performance on the field that has me wondering if AA might reconsider.

Ozuna’s production has been a black hole for most of the season. Defensively, he can’t be relied on in the outfield anymore. He needs to rake at the plate to provide any semblance of value, and that’s not even close to the case. Ozuna is hitting just .223 with a .654 OPS and 78 OPS+. He’s accrued -0.7 fWAR — the lowest among all qualified hitters in baseball — and it feels unlikely things will ever get significantly better, if at all.

Before the season, I understood the logic in hanging on to Ozuna and giving him another chance. The Braves didn’t have enough starting-caliber outfield and DH options; that’s not the case anymore.

William Contreras has proven he belongs in the starting lineup more often than not. On nights where he or d’Arnaud are not catching, they could serve as the designated hitter. Eddie Rosario is also expected back before long after undergoing eye surgery. Ozuna’s opportunities are going to dwindle quickly, and I don’t see much of a point in hanging onto him as a bench bat.

Of course, it’s not really a matter of the Braves wanting to trade him. I’m almost positive they would love to; it’s about finding another team willing to take on his contract, which might be impossible. Ozuna’s value has never been lower, and he’s stilled owed around $40 million through the 2024 season. There’s no reason anybody should be interested in acquiring him unless the Braves attach one of their best prospects.

I could see that as a possibility, but I also think the Braves may be at the point where they would be willing to eat most of the money themselves. With rising attendance and the success of the team, ownership is swimming in cash. The Braves should be able to afford to take this one on the chin if they don’t believe the situation has a chance of getting better. It won’t be easy, but if things continue in this direction, I expect Anthopoulos to evaluate all of his options to save whatever he can and get out from under Ozuna’s contract, and I wouldn’t be shocked if designating him for assignment is on the table once Rosario returns.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: