St. Louis Cardinals: Reported interest in Marlins’ Ozuna, Yelich a safe bet

MIAMI, FL - JULY 11: Marcell Ozuna
MIAMI, FL - JULY 11: Marcell Ozuna /

A team searching for hitting all year, the St. Louis Cardinals look to two young outfielders in Miami as their next targets. While big names like Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton are great to talk about, this would be a much better fit for the trajectory of this team.

The St. Louis Cardinals‘ offense is hitting a mediocre .255 with home run and RBI numbers that rank among the bottom half of the league. Rumors have swirled about the team’s desire to bring a variety of big batters on board this season. However, those bats often came with a condition, whether it be age or a massive contract.

Outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna are great fits for the Cardinals’ current situation, both financially and as players. They are young outfielders that can hit for both average and power, They also have the potential to remain under team control for the foreseeable future. Here’s why pulling the trigger on this would be a safe bet for St. Louis.

Short-Term Flexibility and Long-Term Control

One of the more concerning things about many of the other trade ideas circulating have been the long-term money commitments or the fear of worthless rentals. Those problems do not exist with these two players; it’s actually quite the opposite.

Even if Ozuna plays every game for the rest of this season, he will still be under team control through MLB arbitration rules for at least another two seasons. Yelich, however, has a long-term contract with the Marlins in place. The important thing about this contract is the structure itself. Here it is by years:

2017: $3.5M

2018: $7M

2019: $9.8M

2020: $12.5M

2021: $14M

2022 Team Option: $15M ($1.2M buyout)

Short term, there is little to no risk for the Cardinals in acquiring Yelich. He would bring flexibility for at least another two seasons with the economical half of this contract. Should he perform, the Cardinals could keep him long-term. Plus, the buy-out on his age thirty-one season is rather cheap as well.

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Taking these money factors into account, acquiring these two players would be an incredibly safe move. But what exactly would they bring?

Batting and Power Potential

Ozuna has had a breakout year at the plate, hitting .317/.375/.563 on the season with twenty-three homers and seventy-three RBI on the season.

Yelich’s power has fallen off just a bit, resulting in a .288/.365/.412 line with eight home runs and 57 RBI’s.

Ozuna has a dense frame at 6’1′, 225 pounds, and has come into his own as a strong pull hitter, in part due to a developing approach at the plate. Here is a look at his Swing % charts from 2016 and 2017

While he hasn’t shown a significantly renewed eye, sporting a 33.7 O-Swing % (swings at pitches outside the zone) compared to 32.9% last season, Ozuna has adjusted his eye toward the inside part of the plate. This coincides with his significantly increased Pull% this season. It shows he has become conscious of his potential strengths and role in the MLB.

Yelich on the other hand has the potential to be a .300 hitter with 20+ home runs. He came within a hair of doing it last season, finishing with a .298 batting average to go with 21 homers. He has a solid eye as well, resulting in above average BB% and K%, clocking in at 9.8% and 18.4% respectively.

These two guys could be the power surge the Cardinals’ lineup needs this year, and can be assets in St. Louis for years.

Too steep a price?

The other major eyebrow-raising report coinciding with the Cardinals’ interest in Marlins’ players is the mutual feeling seemingly returned by the Marlins.

While the idea of these two young infielders is enticing, is it worth giving up Hudson? The Mississippi State product has quickly moved up through the minor leagues, rising from the Gulf Coast League to Double A in a year, without missing a beat. He carries a stellar 2.77 ERA in 100+ innings with Springfield this season, despite a .263 BAA, 1.33 WHIP,  and just 69 K’s.

The potential in Hudson is clear. However, the Cardinals have a slew of minor league pitching talent, with names like Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Sandy Alcantara among the Cardinal controlled prospects. While Hudson is a great talent, giving him up would be a price worth paying for the needs Yelich and Ozuna can fill for this organization.

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For a team who is never is in rebuild mode like the Cardinals, the reasons behind the interest in Ozuna and Yelich are apparent, and would be a safe move for the Cardinals to make to stay relevant while having options down the line.