In what has been really busy offseason that saw a dead period for about a month, it’s now picked up steam again as the Atlanta Braves signed Marcell Ozuna to a 1 year, $18 million deal.

Who is he?

As a 28 year old in 2019, Ozuna put up a .241/.328/.472 line, with 29 homers in 485 at bats for the Cardinals. He missed over a month recovering from fractures in his 3rd and 4th fingers suffered diving back into 1st base on a pickoff, limiting him to 130 games. He was credited with 2.2 bWAR, derived entirely from his offense.

Ozuna had one outstanding season in Miami in 2017, putting up a .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers, but mostly he has hung around his career averages of .272/.329/.455, and in the 20’s in homers. He spent most of 2018 battling shoulder pain, culminating in surgery in October of that year. At 29, Marcell is not a good bet to match Josh Donaldson‘s 2019 numbers in 2020, but the 34 year old Donaldson is no lock to do so either. Ozuna is a good bet to put up his career averages, in which case, the Braves should not notice too much drop off from what Donaldson will produce.

What’s the Impact?

Ozuna will slot into left field, leaving Ender Inciarte and a Nick Markakis / Adam Duvall platoon to fight for playing time alongside Ronald Acuna Jr. Ozuna is not a well regarded defensive player. If the 29 year old Inciarte can overcome back and hamstring issues and return to his previous defensive levels, Inciarte in center and Acuna in right make the best compensation for that fact. In either case, 3rd outfielder does not scream out as a position of advantage relative to playoff competition. (5th outfielder looks really good, which is not nothing.)

According to Dave O’Brien, “This pushes the #Braves’ current payroll to between $145M and $150M, which would be easily the largest opening-day payroll the team’s had.” This makes it unlikely to me that the Braves are planning any further big moves without moving some payroll, and therefore the Braves plan to roll with Johan Camargo, and ultimately, Austin Riley at 3rd base. Both are young players with upside. The Braves love Nick Markakis; we will most likely find out if Inciarte and/or Duvall have any trade value.

Also from DOB, the Braves will give up their 3rd-highest draft selection next summer (99th overall pick.)

Assessment of the Signing

The Braves are coming off a 97 win season with no excuse not to make a run at 2020. However, with a young core of MLB talent, and Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, and a pipeline of young starting pitching approaching the majors, only the ticking timeline of Freddie Freeman defines the Braves window for the first half of the decade. The Ozuna signing puts them in the ballpark of the 2019 offense without blocking Pache, Waters, or Riley, or tying up payroll for 2021 and beyond.

The Braves will need Dansby Swanson, Camargo, and Riley to ride up the aging curve, and McCann+ contributions from Travis d’Arnaud to make up the rest.

Thanks for reading the piece on the signing of Atlanta Braves Marcell Ozuna. If you enjoyed this piece, check out this piece on extending Dansby Swanson.

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