I’m not sure whether it’s actually a particular hallmark of the Cardinals organization or if it just feels that way because of the two biggest names that did it (Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Holliday), but it seems like players who are traded to the Cardinals have a particular willingness to sign on to a longer-term deal, even if they were close to free agency when traded.
Outfielder Marcell Ozuna, it turns outs, seems to want to join that group, but the Cardinals haven’t been inclined to discuss an extension with the 28-year-old who hits free agency after this season.
“That’s my priority,” Ozuna told the Post-Dispatch of staying with the Cardinals after this year. “My agents just have to do their job.”
That said, there haven’t been any extension discussions yet, which Ozuna says is OK: “Just play the game hard and don’t worry about that. Right now, my mind is on the playoffs.”
Ozuna has missed time with shoulder issues in his near two years with the Cardinals after they acquired him from the Marlins, and he hasn’t come close to repeating his breakout 2017 season at the plate. With a whole lot of other outfield options around longer-term for the Cardinals, it’s not necessarily a surprise that they haven’t been aggressive in trying to retain him.
The reality for Ozuna is that he’s probably not going to get huge money in free agency, and it does make you wonder if the Cardinals might nevertheless try to leverage concerns he would have about free agency and his desire to stay with the Cardinals into a sweetheart deal. Consider that Ozuna has hit just .270/.329/.459 with the Cardinals, good for a 110 wRC+ that is right around his career mark. As a slightly below average defender in left field, that is not an extraordinarily valuable player – just a solid one. Throw in the shoulder issues, and even for a younger guy, I’m not sure he gets a huge deal in free agency.
I mention all of this mostly as a really, really early look at the outfield market in free agency, which could plausibly impact the Cubs in their efforts to retain Nick Castellanos on a reasonable deal (if he’s into it), as well as any efforts to market young outfielders in trade. There could wind up a number of reasonable options all similar in production, and if Ozuna isn’t able to get that extension from the Cardinals, he’d be another one.
That is not to say I’d expect the Cubs to go after Ozuna, especially not to displace Kyle Schwarber, who has basically been the same player, but with much higher upside, more youth, and a cheaper price tag. Instead, I’m just saying Ozuna’s presence on the market may wind up a consideration for other teams/players.
Also, I will take any and every excuse to share these Ozuna GIFs:
— Bryan Kephart (@thundercrat) April 10, 2019