Free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna has fallen somewhat under-the-radar in the press coverage of this winter’s free agency spending spree, likely because he has been overshadowed by huge names like Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon.
At this point, there are only a handful of big-name free agents remaining, and Ozuna is certainly one of them. The outfielder has had an up-and-down career, with his best season coming in 2017, in which he posted 37 homers, a 143 wRC+, and 5.0 fWAR. He has not been able to repeat such high numbers in the years since – he totaled 5.4 fWAR in 2018 and ‘19 combined – however, he has still performed as an extremely useful outfielder.
A number of teams are said to have interest, with the Cardinals vying for a reunion with their power-hitting outfielder.
The St. Louis Cardinals would do well to bring back Ozuna, as his .474 slugging percentage and 110 wRC+ each ranked second best on the club in 2019, behind only Paul Goldshmidt in both categories. While the Cardinals won the NL Central in ‘19, they did not do so on the strength of their offense; their 764 runs scored ranked nineteenth in baseball.
Ozuna was traded to St. Louis following the 2017 season, as he had spent the entirety of his career to that point with…
The Miami Marlins, who are also reportedly interested in bringing Ozuna back. The Marlins, even if they do land Ozuna, would still be a long ways away from contention. However, they have already had an extremely productive winter, adding proven Major League talent in Jesus Agúilar, Jonathan Villar, and Corey Dickerson. These three, along with Ozuna, would serve as a stable bridge to when the team’s promising prospects are ready for the Big Leagues. With Ozuna, the Marlins’ lineup in 2020 could look something like this:
Jonathan Villar SS
Brian Anderson 3B
Marcell Ozuna RF
Jesus Agúilar 1B
Corey Dickerson LF
Jorge Alfaro C
Lewis Brinson CF
Isan Díaz 2B
This group is by no means world-beating, but they are unquestionably respectable, which is far better than what the Marlins have achieved in the last two seasons. With a lineup like this, the Marlins will be competitive, even in a tough NL East featuring…
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The Atlanta Braves, who have also been connected to Ozuna. They are said to be focused on bringing back third-basemen Josh Donaldson, but Ozuna would be a suitable fallback option if they fail to do so. Ozuna would fill a vacant spot left by Donaldson in the middle of the Braves order, and could slot in as protection behind star first-baseman Freddie Freeman. Ozuna has hit at least 23 homers in five of the last six seasons; this level of production would fit well into the powerful Braves lineup.
The Braves will look to keep up with a National League that has gotten more balanced and competitive, in part led by…
The Cincinnati Reds, who have also been linked to Ozuna. The Reds appear to going be all-in on taking control of what seems to be a very winnable NL Central in 2020, as they have added Mike Moustakas and Japanese import Shogo Akiyama to their roster this winter. Ozuna would provide further depth to their lineup, which would look like this:
Shogo Akiyama CF
Joey Votto 1B
Eugenio Suárez 3B
Mike Moustakas 2B
Marcell Ozuna LF
Jesse Winker/Aristides Aquino RF
Freddy Galvis SS
Tucker Barnhart C
With Ozuna in the fold, this lineup has the potential to be one of the best in the National League. Signing the outfielder would also ensure that he will not return to the St. Louis, which would weaken a division rival. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have all either stood pat or regressed this offseason, and the Reds should certainly be looking to take advantage.
Another division whose balance of power appears to be shifting is the AL West. The Angels have improved immensely this winter by means of adding Anthony Rendon, among others. A team in the same division team that also seeks to jump back into contention is…
The Texas Rangers, who have also checked in on Ozuna. They seem to be more interested in Nicholas Castellanos, another free agent outfielder; they could view Ozuna as a fallback option as the Braves do.
The Rangers open up their new ballpark in 2020, and have already traded for starting pitcher Corey Kluber in an attempt to field a better ballclub next season. Signing Ozuna would improve an outfield that already includes the talented Joey Gallo, and would elevate an offense who ranked just seventeenth in the Majors in homers in 2019.
The market for Ozuna will likely become even clearer in the coming weeks, as Spring Training inches nearer.