This past offseason was a whirlwind for Marcell Ozuna, who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, in hopes of landing a multi-year pact. Instead, he landed on a one year deal with the Braves for $18M. That’s only around 200K more than the QO from St. Louis and was the second straight offseason where the Braves inked a major player on a one year deal that benefits both sides (Josh Donaldson the year prior). Just one year after signing with the Braves on a 1-year/$23M pact, former AL MVP Josh Donaldson saw the Braves balk at his demands and got a 4-year/$92M deal with the Minnesota Twins.
The Braves were rewarded in 2019 with Donaldson hitting 37 homeruns, hitting to a .900 OPS and playing stellar defense. The team rallied around hid personality as he “brought the rain.” The same can be said about Marcell Ozuna as he “stirs it up” in Atlanta. Ozuna has been arguably better, albeit in a season with 102 less games. So far, he has a BBRef WAR of 2, with a 1.042 OPS, 17 homeruns, .327 BA and a very nice hit total (69).
The first video in the at bat against Edwin Diaz as well as the first homerun in the Boston video off of Ryan Weber really shows Ozuna’s plate coverage. He’s walked 31 times already this season. He’s connected with more than 50% of the balls outside of the strikezone that he’s swung at this season. He’s only swung at 31% of the pitches thrown to him outside of the strikezone this season which is slightly under his career averages during his tenures with the Marlin and Cardinals. He’s made contact with 69% of the pitches he swings at, a very nice overall percentage. While his discipline his always been there, why is he seeing an uptick from his two years with the Cardinals, that he hadn’t seen since his second consecutive All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2017?
You could go back to his NLDS against this very same Braves team (for the most part) just a year or so ago.
You could see it in his two homeruns against Dallas Keuchel: launch angle. He’s upped his launch angle, which has led to a higher exit velocity and finding more barrels (15% in 2020 to 11% in 2019). His 53% statcast hard hit percentage is the highest of his career.
So, with Marcell Ozuna being a big cog for the Braves third consecutive division championship: what kind of deal may they offer to Ozuna? The Braves clearly lowballed Donaldson, from Donaldson’s perspective, pushing him to the Twin Cities. A lot of that was concern due to Donaldson’s age and injury history, which has snakebit him so far on the Bomba Squad. For Ozuna, similar concerns are likely to be raised due to his shoulder injuries during his time with St. Louis, and also being 30. It’s far more likely to get a big deal from Atlanta, though, since he’s three years younger than Josh was. Since Marcell Ozuna drew a qualify offer from the Cardinals last year, the Braves cannot offer him a QO this year and receive draft pick compensation if he were to leave elsewhere. This’ll certainly change the strategy and mindset heading into negotiations. With the National League potentially keeping the designated hitter, that’s another thing to consider.
It’s clear Ozuna’s going to get a raise and Atlanta’s also needs to look at locking down their core. Fortunately for the Braves, both young phenoms 2B Ozzie Albies and CF Ronald Acuna have signed longterm, below market value contracts. The All-Star second baseman, arguably the best second baseman in basseball, has a deal running through 2027 where he’ll make only $5M per year. For Acuna, he’s one of the league’s premiere superstars signed through 2028 for only $100M total. Freddie Freeman, the Braves cornerstone 1B, may win the NL MVP this season and is only signed through 2021. How much will his extension cost?
The Braves fortunately only have about $71M in guaranteed contracts right now on the table for next season, but most of their roster will be in arbitration, such as Dansby Swanson. Big bullpen pieces such as closer Mark Melancon and Shane Greene are in contract years as well.
Personally? 5 years/$125M would be my offer. This would keep Ozuna in Atlanta until his age 35 season and not strap the team down while also giving Ozuna a well deserved AAV raise. What would you offer The Big Bear? Tweet me @TheJameus.
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