Cincinnati Reds: The pursuit to sign Marcell Ozuna took a massive hit

For all those fans looking for the Cincinnati Reds to add an outfielder to the squad, Marcell Ozuna may be off the table after receiving a qualifying offer.

There were questions as to whether or not the Cincinnati Reds may pursue free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna this offseason. After receiving a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, Ozuna is likely all but off the table for the Reds.

Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams made it clear earlier this offseason, in an interview with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, that the club may look for upgrades in the outfield. When asked about Aristides Aquino‘s role with the team next year, Williams said they’d be looking to add to the outfield as a whole.

Now, while all the fans throughout Reds Country would like to believe that Aquino is a star in the making, the reality is that he has only two months of major league experience under his belt. Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker both finished 2019 on the injured list, so Williams is right to look for outfield help during the offseason.

By all accounts, Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos are the top two free agent outfielders on the market this season. With Castellanos’ trade to the Chicago Cubs last summer, he was ineligible  to receive a qualifying offer. Ozuna, however, was eligible and the Cardinals extended the offer and, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, are ready to discuss a multi-year deal.

By offering Ozuna a qualifying offer, the 28-year-old outfielder now has 10 days to accept or decline the offer. A qualifying offer is essentially a one-year deal worth the mean of the 125 highest-paid major league players. This year, that figure is around $17.8M.

Obviously, if Ozuna agrees to sign the qualifying offer, he’ll remain with the Cardinals for at least one more season. However, if he rejects the offer, draft compensation will be attached should another team sign Ozuna to a long-term contract.

Draft capital is very valuable, especially for a small market team like the Reds. It’s hard to envision Cincinnati, not only signing Ozuna to a multi-year deal, but also giving up a high draft pick. A team like the Reds relies heavily on the development of minor league players.

In my opinion, signing Ozuna isn’t the best course of action anyway. Sure, he’s got a lot of pop in his bat, but the Dominican native has a relatively low on-base percentage for a player likely to sit in the middle of the batting order.

For his career, Ozuna has a .329 OBP, and last season hit just .241. Ozuna’s not been the same since arriving in St. Louis. Before being traded to the Cardinals, Ozuna enjoyed back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Miami Marlins.

From 2016-2017, Ozuna slashed .290/.350/.503 with 60 homers and 200 RBIs. The past two seasons with the Cards saw Ozuna slash .263/.327/.452 with 52 home runs and 177 RBIs. It seems to me that those numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

Next: 5 free agent outfielders the Reds should pursue

While there’s some uncertainty in the Reds outfield, the organization has a lot of depth at the position in the farm system and there are serviceable players on the major league roster. Extending a qualifying offer to Ozuna made it highly unlikely the Reds will pursue him, but there’s plenty of other talented outfielders available.

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