Marcell Ozuna is at it again. After another down season, the 28-year-old outfielder is lighting the box scores up again in 2019. With all the history, should the St. Louis Cardinals still bring him back?
Oh yeah, we all should have known this was coming. In keeping with his career trend of having literally up and down years, Marcell Ozuna has been balling out yet again for the St. Louis Cardinals. If they can expect that at least half of his time under a long-term extension would be closer to his 2018 than 2019, how long would it be worth it to extend him?
He did have a back to back set of solid years in 2016 and 2017, but St. Louis Cardinals fans were hoping to see the 2017 Ozuna, who had seemingly turned a corner in his career with a .312/.376/.548 slash line, as opposed to the more modest and developing 2016 Ozuna with a far more modest .266/.321/.452 line.
Even though Ozuna’s OPS is at a very nice .847 mark (which, as it happens, is higher than Bryce Harper’s this season), there is still much to think about.
On one hand, you have his mediocre .259 batting average that just won’t cut it as the long-term number 4 hitter, and a BABIP of just .272 makes the picture look even worse.
On the other, there are subtle improvements being made that might make Ozuna’s swings less painful. His ISO is actually higher than it was in 2017, and he is hitting more liners, more home runs per fly ball, and less grounders, which is generally a recipe for success.
But the inconsistency, the sour taste left in the mouths of St. Louis Cardinals fans from last season, and the shoulder saga make it difficult to jump back on him again long-term.
On top of that, you now have some questions about durability. He stayed relatively healthy in Miami, but as seen by his latest trip to the IL, it’s not quite the same in St. Louis.
Even if the Cardinals do decide that Ozuna’s talent is worth it in comparison to the other options next season, a long-term deal should go no longer than 3 years.
Why that number in particular? Well, based on Ozuna’s current career trajectory, next season will be a down year, while the season after will be another solid one. If you give him 3 years, it will be just enough time for him to break his inconsistent trend while not locking the team into Ozuna for the entirety of Paul Goldschmidt’s extension.
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When it comes to the injury, it’s not something that’s entirely chronic — but breaking bones that small and that deep in the hand is something to be concerned about.
The way Ozuna plays for the rest of the season will be a huge factor in whether or not they resign him — even more so than it would for other players. If Ozuna can come back and finish putting together a .800+ OPS season for the St. Louis Cardinals, then he can prove some of these issues are behind him for now.
If that does happen, then it might be difficult for the team to pass on him with the state the Cardinals offense is currently in.
However, the caveat is that no matter how well he does play, Ozuna is just too volatile of a commodity to consider him a core piece of the St. Louis Cardinals for the future, and he should not be treated like it come contract talks. The short-mid term extension would give the Cardinals flexibility during the Goldschmidt years, and if he doesn’t want it, it might be time for his short-lived tenure to come to a close.
Marcell Ozuna has not been a model of consistency for the St. Louis Cardinals, or during his career at all. That will be something the St. Louis Cardinals will have to consider when thinking about Marcell Ozuna. After all, sometimes the best addition is no addition at all.