Okay, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief now. The Cincinnati Reds did not Marcell Ozuna, and in doing so avoided a major mistake.
Well, the long wait is over. We now know that Marcell Ozuna will not be joining the Cincinnati Reds, instead deciding to sign a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. While some fans were warming up to the idea, I for one got off the Ozuna-train once the front office signed Shogo Akiyama. I think the Reds averted disaster, especially by not offering Ozuna a multi-year deal.
Now, before we get too deep into this, let me first say that I don’t believe Marcell Ozuna is a bad player. In fact, I think he’s a very good player. He’s a two-time All-Star with the power to hit 30-plus home runs a season. That said, he’s not worth the contract he was looking to score in free agency.
Earlier this offseason, the Reds were in the running for Ozuna services. It made sense. Cincinnati was looking to upgrade the hitting and Ozuna was one of the better power-hitters on the free agent market. Let’s face it, it’s rare that you’ll find a power-hitting shortstop, catcher, or centerfielder on the open market very often. All three were areas Cincinnati could use an upgrade.
To be fair, this winter, some of those types of players were available and the Cincinnati Reds were in the hunt. However, both Yasmani Grandal (Chicago White Sox) and Didi Gregorius (Philadelphia Phillies) signed elsewhere. The Reds did, however, score big with the signing of second baseman Mike Moustakas.
Still, there were whispers throughout Reds Country of the front offices continued interest in Ozuna. Cincinnati soon turned their attention to Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama, and the rumors involving the Reds and Ozuna all but stopped.
Akiyama, a centerfielder by trade, may find more playing time in left field depending on where Nick Senzel lines up defensively. Last season, the Reds rookie made his major league debut playing in center field, a position he’d never played during his professional or college career.
Regardless of where Akiyama lines up on the outfield grass, the Reds brass has more than just Senzel’s playing time to consider. Last year saw the breakout campaign of Aristides Aquino. The Punisher will, no doubt, be given ample opportunities to prove his white-hot month of August was no fluke.
There’s also Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, and Travis Jankowski. All three players have a legitimate shot of racking up a lot of at-bats this season. Adding Ozuna to an already crowded outfield would’ve made a precarious situation even worse. As it stands, David Bell is going to struggle to find playing time for Senzel, Winker, Akiyama, Ervin, Aquino, and maybe even Michael Lorenzen.
But let’s take the playing time issue out of the equation. Ozuna signed a one-year/$18M contract. That’s very odd, and it should clue fans into the fact that Ozuna was likely asking for too much money. Furthermore, the figure was likely one that most teams did not feel comfortable dishing out, so Ozuna felt it better to bet on himself to have a good season, and re-enter the free agent market next winter.
There’s also the matter of draft pick compensation. Because a qualifying offer was extended to Marcell Ozuna, the Atlanta Braves will now be sending a valuable draft pick to St. Louis. That’s a hefty price, especially for just one season. It shows Atlanta’s desperation to compete for the National League crown. The Braves were in the hunt for Josh Donaldson as well.
Could the Cincinnati Reds still use another bat? Sure, who wouldn’t want to see another above-average hitter join the lineup. However, at $18M, that money can be better spent on help for the bullpen. Cincinnati may not be adding to next year’s roster, but the pursuit of Marcell Ozuna is officially over.