So far this year the Cardinals have extended the contracts of Miles Mikolas, Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter. Much talk has been made on who will be the next one.
My vote is for Left Fielder Marcel Ozuna.
Now that may be an unpopular choice for some fans. There have been many people that have suggested that Ozuna will walk, or that the Cardinals will not try to keep him at the end of this season. Now that very well may be the case but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
A little history
When St. Louis made the trade for Marcel Ozuna fans were split. Many were disappointed that they could not land the big fish in Giancarlo Stanton. Names began flying about like bees around a beehive. Will it be Moustakas or Hosmer? Donaldson, Yelich or Cain? Rumors about trades and Free Agents were hot and heavy. Then it was announced that the Cardinals had made a deal to acquire Marcel Ozuna for Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Galen and Daniel Castano.
It is fair to say Cardinal fans were split. Some embraced the move as getting a big hitter who had broken out. Some however quickly pointed out that the high numbers Ozuna put up in 2017 (.312/.376/.548, 30 2Bs 37 HRs,124 RBIs.) were an outlier and not his norm (career prior to 2017 - .265/.312/.426 15 HR(avg) 59 RBI(avg). Then there was the fact that we gave years of prospects for only 2 years of Ozuna. Extension speculation began after the trade. Most thought that they would wait a year and see what they have. During the year even though he WAS producing, some fans were already yelling that it was a bad trade. After it was made known that Ozuna had a bad shoulder. Most were skeptical of the deal saying we bought damaged goods.
I understand the skeptical attitude, prior to 2017 Ozuna had never;
Hit above ,269, Had an OBP over .321, Had a Slg% over .452.
His highs for HRs and RBIs were 23 and 85 respectively.
The debate Raged like flood waters on the the Mississippi River. Was it a breakout year or a career year? Did we get sold a bill of goods? Mo was a fool for giving up Sierra, Gale and Alcantara for an injured player in Ozuna.
The outlier narrative seemed to gather the most traction last year (2018) as Ozuna's numbers were more in line with what his career numbers were prior to 2017 Higher to be sure but not in line with his 2017 numbers.
2013 - 2016 .265/.312/.426 15 HR(avg) 59 RBI(avg).
Then in 2017 .312/.376/.548 37 HRs 124 RBIs
Then in 2018 .280/.325/.433 23 HRs 88 RBIs
So the last two years have been over his career numbers prior to 2017. Factoring in 2017 his career numbers .276/.329/.469 19 HRs 72RBIs So he was still over his career numbers in BA, HRS and RBIs and his OBP was only 4 points lower. When you factor in his shoulder injury the numbers are explainable.
IF 2017 WAS his breakout year you would figure some regression would take place in 2018. No one would expect him to have a repeat season especially going to a different team. If you figure in say a 10% regression that would have produced .281/.339/.494 33 HRs and 112 RBIs. While his BA was in that 10% regression range, but his OBP was 14% off, SLG was off 20%, HRs off 38% and RBIs were off 30%. The Slugging, HRs and RBIs is a direct product of the bad shoulder. Even with the regression he lead the team in Runs Scored, RBIs, and was second in Batting Average and second on the team in HRs.
Defensively, Ozuna was a Gold Glove winner in 2017 Posting a .984 FPCT, 11 DRS, and a range factor of over 2 which was above league Avg.
2018 with a sore shoulder which affected his throwing he still managed a .985 FPCT 8 DRS and was at the league average in range factor.
Both 2017 and 18 were better than any year he had before then so offensively and defensively he has been trending up
So now we come to this year. After 45 games he is hitting .233/.316/.512 13HRs and 40 RBIs Projections for 2019 based on 45 games .231/.312/503 45 HRs 138 RBIs While average would be well below his career numbers and his OBP would be closer to his Pre-2017 numbers his Slugging would be higher and his HRs and RBIs would be above 2017 numbers. I think his average and OBP will be closer to the .265 - .270/.325 - .340 as well as a higher Slg pct.
Defensively 1,000 FPCT, but his DRS is a -3 and his range factor is a 2 which is almost at league average right now. That is understandable given the recovery from shoulder surgery. In recent games it does seem as if his shoulder is getting better, so I would expect these numbers to improve as well.
With his shoulder issues seemingly behind him It is looking like 2017 could have been indeed a breakout year and we could be witnessing his birth as a star. Or at the very least development of a true power hitter.
So what is a healthy Ozuna worth?
At 28 years old he can figure into a long range plan 5-7 years. The issue will be is at what price? Marcell is currently making $12.25M.
Starting next year some of the higher salaries we will have
SO essentially $95M tied up in 5 players. Would the Cardinals want to add another $20+ Million to the payroll? Yes they can afford it. There is more than enough tax room to afford say $25 million dollar hit.
Given that Ozuna does not have the history of high production numbers I don't see Trout or Harper money. However, should Ozuna match or surpass his 2017 numbers Then maybe I can see Free Agency netting him an offer in the 5 for $140M - $145M. I think the Cardinals can be proactive here and offer up a 5 year with possible options In the$120M to130M range. Given the the recent climate and guys like Goldschmidt, Arenado and Trout signing extensions. Ozuna might be willing to avoid slow moving market and sign. Now throw in Ozuna's recent change in agents might make a deal possible. Ozuna was originally represented by Scott Boras. He has now switched to MDR sports (Yadi's agent). This could mean a willingness to be like Goldy and Carp and sign now rather than test the market.
Effects on Bader, O'Neil and other prospects
A signing of Ozuna would have little effect on Bader as I believe he is the CF of the future for the Cardinals. O'Neill on the other hand is a corner OF So having Ozuna, Fowler and Martinez around for at least 2 more years (the length remaining of the contracts of Fowler and Martinez) could keep him out of the line up. O'Neil has power and does seem to have good defensive skills as does Lane Thomas. However O'Neill still needs to prove he can hit and cut down his strikeouts at the major league level. As for Thomas he may still be a year away as it stands. So where does that leave them? I believe they both have a future with the organization in the next 2 to 3 years, but the opportunity to have a proven commodity in Ozuna is worth the risk.
That is all I have for now
Let me know what you think. Leave comments here on facebook or hit me up on twitter @bortas2002