St. Louis Cardinals: Should the Cardinals pay Marcell Ozuna?
By Joshua Magee
With Marcell Ozuna about to test free agency, he has stated interest in remaining a Cardinal. Would it be smart for the St. Louis Cardinals to resign him?
We are starting to hit the stretch run of the 2019 MLB season, and the St. Louis Cardinals are currently in the thick of the playoff race, tied for first place in the NL Central with the hated Chicago Cubs. This may come as a surprise to a few fans, considering the fact that the Cardinals have had a starved offense for most of the season. There are only two guys currently with an OPS above .800. One of those guys, Marcell Ozuna, will be hitting the market this offseason.
Back in December of 2017, the Cardinals made a blockbuster trade, acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the rebuilding Miami Marlins in exchange for a bundle of prospects including Magnerius Sierra, Zac Gallen, and All-Star Sandy Alcantara.
This was a huge add for St. Louis as Ozuna was coming off of an insane season, hitting for 37 home runs as well as a .924 OPS. Also considering the fact that he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in his respective position, it seemed like the Cardinals got an absolute steal, and the big bat they were yearning for at the time.
Though Ozuna hasn’t been able to repeat that stunning 2017 campaign, he has still done a pretty solid job with the Cardinals.
2018 was definitely a disappointing year for Ozuna, even though he had a solid .280 batting average, he failed to even hit 25 home runs on the season and had a .758 OPS. He became more of a singles hitter and was far away from being a feared hitter in the Majors like he was in the previous year.
Over the offseason, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Ozuna. In November, Ozuna opted to undergo surgery for a bad shoulder, one that took away a lot of power and pretty much made his arm a liability in the field.
When Spring Training rolled around, it was expected that the outfielder would be healed up and ready to go for Spring Training, but he was still in the recovery process. Fans did not like that news at all and started to claim that he didn’t do anything to help his shoulder recover, and called him a “fat slob” and things of the nature.
He ended up being good to play baseball but still had a very rough Spring Training, and with there being a superstar OF on the free-agent market by the name of Bryce Harper, fans started to howl for the Marcell Ozuna era to be over.
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Ozuna has had a pretty productive 2019 season though, being one of the only feared bats in the Cardinals lineup so far. He has gotten his power back, hitting for 22 home runs and a very solid .844 OPS. He even had a shot to make his third career All-Star Game but suffered a finger injury when sliding into second base shortly before All-Star rosters were announced.
He is nowhere near his former Gold Glover status though, but we knew that when he tried to rob a homer against the Los Angeles Dodgers back in April; only for the ball to stay inside the park and have Ozuna take an embarrassing fall.
With Marcell Ozuna hitting the free-agent market for the first time in his career this offseason, he has expressed interest in wanting to stay a Cardinal. He even stated he would in an interview with Mark Saxon of The Athletic.
Ozuna is still relatively young and will turn 29 over the offseason. With the Cardinals lacking quality offensive players, it would seem like almost a priority to bring back the 2-time All-Star. We saw how brutal the offense was without Ozuna when he took a quick trip to the IL with a finger issue. He is a feared power bat and can stay that way with St. Louis.
The Cardinals could let Ozuna walk in favor of top prospect Dylan Carlson. The former first-rounder has started to come into his own at the plate and is knocking on the door of the MLB; violently. He has 22 homers in the Minor League system and has torn up Triple-A pitching so far in Memphis. He is currently the No. 53 prospect in all of baseball (I think he should be way higher, but we can get into that in another article).
Carlson is also only 20 years old, so we might not have even come close to seeing how good he could be. Though the Cardinals farm system isn’t as good as it has been in previous years, there is still a lot of depth in the OF, including guys like Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena who have been hitting pretty well this season too.
If I were in President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak’s shoes (if he isn’t fired by the time we even get to the offseason), I’d pay Ozuna a short term deal, nothing longer than four years. He isn’t the same as he was from the 2017 season, though he has been a pretty solid player; and his shoulder issues aren’t ideal for teams looking to pay him for a long time.
Nonetheless, I think he could be a very solid bat in the Cardinals lineup for years to come, but if the Cardinals do decide to let him walk, it’s not like we don’t have quality talent in the farm to come to take his place for way cheaper.