I know, I know....this is the biggest ‘duh’ of this entire series that we have been rolling out here at Talking Chop. However, recent signings elsewhere have put a renewed focus on the Braves’ needs and the options (or lack thereof) to fill them, so bare with me.
We are all familiar with Marcell Ozuna and what he was able to do with the Atlanta Braves professional baseball club. If not for the obscene season that Freddie Freeman put together, he would have been a leading MVP candidate in 2020 and even with Freeman winning the award, Ozuna still finished sixth with a .338/.431/.636 line with 18 homers that had him pretty close to the Triple Crown going into the final weeks of the season (he ended up in third in average).
The biggest question surrounding Ozuna is whether or not a team can play him in the field as that would expand his market significantly...but lets take a look at his candidacy from a Braves point of view?
Should the Braves sign Marcell Ozuna?
The short, tldr version of this section is absolutely yes. Even before Michael Brantley and George Springer signed elsewhere, Ozuna still felt like a really good fit for the Braves. If the DH is in the National League, which is still a possibility although that it hasn’t been decided as of yet is lol-worthy, Ozuna slots in perfectly exactly where he was for most of the season in 2020 and the Braves can figure out another, less costly option in left field or even give Drew Waters a crack at it at some point.
Without the DH is where things get a bit tricky. While almost everyone seems to agree that the new CBA, that will be eventually negotiated after this season, will include a universal DH. The question is whether it is worth it to have Ozuna in left in order to have his bat in the lineup. Ozuna is bad in the outfield....far worse than we thought...but his bat in 2021 is so far and away better than any of the known options that its likely worth it to have him under contract especially if you are bullish on the DH being in the National League for 2022 and beyond.
This has become more urgent with Springer and Brantley off the market. Springer would have been a great fit, but never felt like a realistic possibility given how robust his market was going to be. Brantley, however, was a reasonable alternative to Ozuna in filling the same role. With him re-signing with the Astros, the best free agent bat remains JT Realmuto who the Braves are not going to sign because they are set at catcher, the best option for the Braves may actually be Yasiel Puig who didn’t play at all in 2020 and is far from a sure thing.
Will Ozuna sign with the Braves?
I remain optimistic that Ozuna will sign with the Braves. I think Marcell fit in well in the clubhouse in Atlanta and the Braves remain one of the best teams in the league which is obviously appealing for guys that want to win in the next few years. From the Braves point of view, they have a guy that, despite have net negative defensive value, still put up an MVP caliber season and that they can slot in the middle of their lineup for the next 3-4 years. Its unclear as to how much Ozuna is asking for/expecting, but in a vacuum and assuming a reasonable ask from Ozuna, this is a deal that the Braves should prioritize getting done.
As for what a deal could look like, I think something like four years, $74 million makes a certain amount of sense. That puts Marcell at an $18.5 million AAV over the course of the deal and prices in a bit of the DH-only stuff that we can expect later in the contract. We’ll see what he ends up getting.