Although Marcell Ozuna never turned into the superstar that the St. Louis Cardinals had hoped when they acquired him from the Miami Marlins, he has proven to be a productive bat and a capable outfielder. Ozuna enters the free-agent market this offseason and is one of the most prized corner outfielders available. Last season, Ozuna batted .241/.328/.472 to go along with an OPS of .800. In addition, he slugged 29 home runs and drove in 89 runs. It should also be noted that Ozuna is still in his prime, as he enters his age 29 season.
Top Three Potential Landing Spots for Marcell Ozuna
The Cardinals extended a qualifying offer worth $17.8 million to Ozuna earlier this month, but the seven-year MLB veteran rejected the offer. As a result, if he signs elsewhere, the Cardinals will receive Draft pick compensation, and the club that signs him will forfeit a Draft pick. This could have some impact on the contract Ozuna receives, but the outfielder is still drawing interest from multiple teams and should obtain a lucrative deal.
So, let’s take a look at the top three potential landings spots for Ozuna.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are hoping to improve their offensive production in 2020, and retaining Ozuna would be a step in the right direction. After all, Ozuna was productive in the cleanup spot and was the Cardinals’ best postseason performer, finishing with a postseason slash line of .324/.359/.595. He also hit two home runs and drove in five, as well as coming up with clutch hits against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. Ozuna has spent the last two seasons in St. Louis and has made it clear that he hopes to stay with the Cardinals.
“I hope to stay here,” Ozuna told Mark Saxon of The Athletic this past August. “Let’s see how the season goes and how much I can help the team, but my preference is to stay here. I like the team, the city of St. Louis, everything. Maybe at the end of the season, we can get something done.”
Ozuna has also said that staying in St. Louis is a “priority,” and that his agents “just have to do their job” in order for it to become a reality. However, reports indicate that the Cardinals are reluctant to commit to the number of years Ozuna seeks. If the Cardinals decide not to pursue Ozuna, this could clear the outfield for prospects such as Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena, and top prospect Dylan Carlson.
“We like a lot of our young outfielders, and we want to give them an opportunity,” general manager Michael Girsch said.
The playoff-desperate Cincinnati Reds are another intriguing team in the Ozuna market. Although they have a talented, young outfield mix of Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, and Phil Ervin, president of baseball operations Dick Williams has indicated that the Reds plan to add to that mix.
“We will need to add to that outfield mix,” Williams said. “The good thing is we feel comfortable with the way we mix and match to put guys in a position to succeed. If one of those guys wants to take off and play his way into an everyday role, then that’ll be upside.”
Playing in a hitter-friendly park like Great American Ballpark should also add some appeal for Ozuna. Even though his career numbers in Cincinnati aren’t eye-popping (100 career at-bats, five homers, .770 OPS), Ozuna and the Reds would certainly benefit from having his powerful bat in the Great American “Small” Park. His presence in the lineup would also add a big boost to an offense that has the potential to be potent.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are in the process of transitioning from rebuilding to contending and are in desperate need of a corner outfielder. In the past three years, the White Sox ranked 29th out of 30 teams for right field production. Also, their atrocious 1.3 WAR from right field in those three years is concerning. Last season, outside of Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox received barely any offensive production from their outfielders. Although top-outfield prospect Luis Robert is expected to arrive on the major league scene soon, adding Ozuna would undoubtedly be a drastic upgrade for the current White Sox outfield.
The White Sox could go a different route and pursue other free-agent outfielders such as Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig. But Ozuna’s solid play in the outfield and his powerful bat would fit in nicely at Guaranteed Rate Field. An outfield of Jimenez, Robert, and Ozuna would certainly be an improvement from the past few years.
Embed from Getty Images