MLB

Breaking down potential landing spots for Marcell Ozuna

Free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna was once an MVP candidate, but has slumped for two years, leaving his big contract in jeopardy.

When the St. Louis Cardinals traded for outfielder Marcell Ozuna after the 2017 season, they gave up an elite package of prospects for two years of control of the two-time All-Star who had just won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Ozuna had hit .312/.376/.548 with 30 doubles, 37 home runs and 124 RBI in his final season with the Miami Marlins while also playing strong defense in left field. Two years later, Ozuna tests free agency having failed to replicate that solid 2017 effort and with diminished defensive value.

In two years with the Cardinals, Ozuna battled injuries and hit just .262/.327/.451 with 52 home runs and 177 RBI in 278 games. He missed the entire month of July this season and hit just .150/.274/.330 in September. Prior to that month-long slump, Ozuna had been hitting a more respectable .265/.343/.509 with 24 home runs and 77 RBI in 104 games. He did dial it in for the NLDS, hitting .429/.478/.857 with three doubles, two home runs and five RBI in the Cardinals’ win.

Before the trade and his time in St. Louis, Ozuna likely would have been a candidate for a nine-figure contract. Now, his value is likely reduced to the $45-50 million range on a three-year deal and perhaps as high as $60 million if he can convince a team to give him a fourth year. It’s not a no-risk deal by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a great deal of upside in the 29-year-old. If Ozuna can put things together again and finds the right setting, he should rebound to top 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

There is interest in him in the early going for MLB free agency this year, and these five teams stand out as strong early contenders to sign the two-time All-Star.

NEW YORK – JUNE 14: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals warms up in the on deck circle during the game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 14, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

5. Atlanta Braves

The Braves have already had a strong offseason by closing deals with closer Will Smith, reliever Chris Martin and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, but they have more work left to do. Atlanta has been linked to free-agent left-hander Madison Bumgarner and has high hopes to re-sign All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson. If they cannot find a way to keep Donaldson, who was a force in his lone season, the Braves may turn their focus to signing Ozuna to play left field.

The 2019 season was largely one to forget for Ozuna, but he did come up big in the NLDS against the Braves. Ozuna picked up nine hits in 21 at-bats with three doubles, two home runs and five RBI as the Cardinals won the series. The Braves also got to see plenty of Ozuna up close and personal from his time with Miami. The 29-year-old is an intriguing rebound candidate for a team like the Braves, who can offer Ozuna a low-pressure environment where he will be hitting in a lineup with Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman.

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