Braves should sign this player if they lose Marcell Ozuna

The Braves should already have a backup plan if they lose Marcell Ozuna

Ozuna is expected to secure a multi-year deal worth somewhere around $15 million-$20 million annually. It’s not a contract the Braves want to dish out, despite the fact that Ozuna was an MVP candidate and led Atlanta in several statistical categories this past season. Instead, the Braves could search for another, more cost-efficient option.

With MLB trending ever-closer to the universal DH, the Braves could sign 40-year-old Nelson Cruz to a short-term deal. Cruz had 16 home runs, 33 RBI and hit .303 last season. He’s one of the best power threats in the league, and there’s no guarantee the Twins bring him back.

If the Braves can up the ante slightly over what the Twins plan on offering, there’s no reason for Cruz to turn them down. If Rob Manfred isn’t bluffing, and the DH makes its way to the National League, the Braves won’t have to employ Cruz in the outfield. Instead, he can focus solely on hitting, as he’s done with the Twins the last few seasons.

Losing Ozuna isn’t ideal, but the Braves have prospects waiting in the wings

Both Cristian Pache and Drew Waters are on the verge of becoming major league regulars. Signing Cruz helps simulate Ozuna’s production in the lineup, and allows one of Pache or Waters to step into the lineup full-time, rather than forcing them to the bench for a few more seasons.

Atlanta has made a habit of signing players to one-year prove-it contracts the last few seasons. Look no further than Josh Donaldson and even Ozuna. While Cruz is a bit older than those two players, with a stale market expected this Winter, he’s likely in the same category considering his age and limited positional flexibility.

Signing Cruz is the right move, especially if Ozuna’s price tag doesn’t come down.

Next: 3 best landing spots for Marcell Ozuna in free agency

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