The Cincinnati Reds have been rumored to have interest in outfielder Marcell Ozuna but it may not be worth what it will cost to sign him.
As the 2019 season came to a close for the Cincinnati Reds, it was obvious that the front office needed to add offense in order to contend for the playoffs and National League Central Division crown. The Reds improved their pitching last offseason and must improve their offense through trade or free agency, but Marcell Ozuna is not worth what it’s likely to cost.
Ozuna is one of the prominent free agents tied to the Cincinnati Reds. But does Ozuna fit on the Reds roster? Ozuna, an outfielder, would add to an already crowded outfield in Cincinnati. As of now, the Reds have Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker as the team’s starting outfield with Phillip Ervin coming off the bench.
While a corner outfielder like Ozuna may bring a power-bat to the lineup, what the Reds really need is a center fielder. Senzel played a decent center field last season, but injuries took their toll on him in the last couple of months of the season. It makes you wonder if playing center field is the right position for last year’s rookie. He may be better served to move back to the infield.
Ozuna really isn’t a centerfielder and hasn’t been since his days with the Miami Marlins. If Cincinnati does sign Ozuna, and plugs him into left field where he played with the St. Louis Cardinals for the past two seasons, Winker and Ervin, both young and productive outfielders, will lose significant playing time.
Marcell Ozuna will also come with a hefty price tag. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Ozuna is projected to collect a three-year deal worth $45M. That is not an outrageous contract that the Reds couldn’t afford, but the Cardinals offered Ozuna a qualifying offer. Since he rejected the offer, any team who signs him will have to give a compensation draft pick to the Cardinals.
Now, many fans may think one draft pick is not a big deal, but being a small market team, losing a high draft pick can have major consequences down the road. Relying on the development of high draft picks or using them as assets in trades are some of the best ways that a team like the Reds can improve. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Reds would forfeit their third-highest selection.
Some fans may say that Cincinnati needs to stop worrying about their farm system and just starting spending money on free agents in order to win. I agree, but there is a fine line the Reds don’t want to cross. The team can spend money, but it needs to be done wisely while still investing in a strong farm system.
The Cincinnati Reds are not the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees. Those big market franchises can spend high dollars on free agents with very little consequences. The Reds do not have that luxury.
Marcell Ozuna is a very good player and could be worthwhile, even with the draft pick compensation attached, another team, but not the Reds. Cincinnati can get roughly the same production from the platoon of Winker and Ervin in left field that Ozuna would provide.
In 2019, Winker and Ervin combined to hit 23 home runs, averaged a .344 on-base percentage, and an OPS+ of 106.5 in a combined 574 at bats. Ozuna hit 29 home runs, with a .328 on-base percentage and an OPS+ of 107. As you can see, Winker and Ervin can pretty much equate to Ozuna himself.
This isn’t a criticism of Marcell Ozuna. Some free agents just aren’t right for certain teams. Instead of pursuing Ozuna, Cincinnati should focus its attention on other free agents such as Didi Gregorius and maybe even think about making a trade in order to upgrade the offense. Whatever route the Reds take, they need to look elsewhere because Marcell Ozuna is not worth the cost.