St. Louis Cardinals: Qualifying the Marcell Ozuna question
By Matt Graves
As free agency is set to begin, the St. Louis Cardinals have the big question of whether or not to resign Marcell Ozuna. Right now it’s a win-win.
It has been a tale of two seasons for Marcell Ozuna in his time with the St. Louis Cardinals. The problem is that neither story is the one that fans or the team thought they would be telling.
Truth be told, the title of this article is much more of a bad joke more than anything because the question surrounding Marcell Ozuna doesn’t need a qualifier; it needs an answer.
That answer has to do with whether or not Marcell Ozuna will accept or deny the qualifying offer the Cardinals extended to him on Monday. Or if the team is going to extend him past just 2020.
In his two years after being traded to the Cardinals in 2018, Ozuna has hit .277 with a .777 OPS and a combined 52 homers. Again, it has been two different types of seasons. In his first season, Ozuna hit .280 but slugged just .433 and hit 23 homers. He was the “singles king” and not the cleanup hitter the team was looking for.
This year, he hit 29 homers, slugged .472, and hit just .241. As with most fans, I’d rather have the 2019 Ozuna but neither was anywhere close to his stellar 2017 season in Miami. That’s when he hit .312 with a .924 OPS and 37 bombs.
Looking back now, that 2017 season looks a lot more like an outlier than a stepping point into stardom even though his expected numbers were a lot better than his real numbers this year.
In the next ten days, the future of the Cardinals outfield could be altered for years, but I don’t think there’s really a bad outcome.
Should Ozuna accept the qualifying offer, the Cardinals get back a 29-year-old outfielder who drove in 89 runs in 2019 for a very modest $17.8M deal.
If Ozuna declines the qualifying offer as Mr. Mish thinks he will, the Cardinals will be able to look at different options and thank Ozuna on his way out for his time here with another draft pick in hand. Neither one of those outcomes is bad.
In my opinion, the only way that this Ozuna situation comes out poorly is if the team signs him to a five-plus year deal. Given that Goold’s report is the first one to ever consider that the Cardinals could look at signing Ozuna longterm, I don’t find this very likely.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
This will all be shaken out soon, but mlbtraderumors.com has Ozuna projected to get a three-year, $45M deal on the open market.
At first glance, that doesn’t look too bad. Ozuna would be with the Cardinals until after his age 32 season and a year after Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler come off the books. The biggest problem is that an already clogged outfield will stay clogged longer and the already cemented checkbooks will stay inflexible.
Ozuna’s production won’t be easy to replace if he walks.
That is the biggest dichotomy here. The team doesn’t want to continue to overcommit to longterm deals, but for an already weak offense, losing a bat like Ozuna’s (especially when he has adamantly said he wanted to stay) could sink the team further.
There’s no easy answer and the way that things go in the next two weeks will surely clarify things and when you get right down to it, it’s about what Ozuna decides he really wants. I am confident that the Cardinals aren’t going to overpay to keep Ozuna for any length of time so if he signs back, he’ll have to take a discounted rate.
With Dylan Carlson and a number of other young outfielders in the waiting, the Cardinals will not be afraid to let Ozuna walk. The young guys won’t be able to immediately step in and replace Ozuna’s production and the team will have to live with that if a deal isn’t able to be made. You know our Cardinals, they’ll never turn down another draft pick. There really isn’t a bad outcome from the current situation in my eyes.