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Braves Sign Marcell Ozuna To 1 Year $18 Million

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  • Braves Sign Marcell Ozuna To 1 Year $18 Million

    The Braves have agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna for an $18MM salary that slightly exceeds the $17.8MM qualifying offer from the Cardinals that he rejected back in November.

    When the Cardinals originally acquired Ozuna from the Marlins in the 2017-18 offseason, it looked as though the club had acquired one of the game’s burgeoning top power threats. Ozuna swatted 37 home runs in ’17 and turned in a scintillating .312/.376/.548 line through 159 games. But shoulder problems slowed him over his two seasons in St. Louis — particularly in 2018. Ozuna did turn in a .262/.327/.451 batting line with 52 home runs, 39 doubles, three triples and 15 steals in 1177 trips to the plate (106 OPS+, 108 wRC+), but he wasn’t the heart-of-the-order force the Cardinals had presumably hoped to acquire.

    That 2018-19 production aligns with the output that Ozuna showed in 2014-16 — raising the question of whether the 2017 season is repeatable or simply an outlier. Notably, there are some encouraging factors that suggest Ozuna could have more in the tank than he showed during his time with the Cardinals. His average exit velocity and hard-hit rate were both elite, per Statcast, as were his expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA. Ozuna also posted a career-high 11.3 walk rate that easily topped his previous career-best of 9.4 percent and trounced the 6.9 percent career mark he carried into 2019.

    Defensively, Ozuna comes with plenty of uncertainty. He won a Gold Glove in 2017 with the Marlins, but his ongoing shoulder troubles completely sapped his throwing ability in 2018. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating both still graded him as an above-average fielder thanks to his range, although Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric pegged him at -9 over the duration of his two-year stint in St. Louis. At the very least, he should’t be a major liability for the Braves, and there’s the potential that he’ll actually deliver plus glovework if he’s at full strength.