St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Marcell Ozuna Would Not Be a Disappointment

The St. Louis Cardinals need a center fielder.  The Miami Marlins need starting pitching.  These elements could spell a palatable recipe.

Many names have circulated in connection to the St. Louis Cardinals‘ stated need for a center fielder.  These have included top-of-the-bank rumors such as Dexter Fowler (whom I have covered a few times already) and once-fan-favorite Jon Jay.  Most recently, however, the name of Marcell Ozuna seems to be bubbling to the top.

My first reaction to the Ozuna name was one of interest but not excitement.  That said, as I continue to see him rumored, I feel it is best if we take a few moments to examine him to see if there is fire to this smoke.

Before diving into the statistics, let’s admit that it might not take a terrible amount to land Ozuna from the Marlins.  Sadly in the wake of the Jose Fernandez death, the Marlins need starting pitching and could well part with their young outfielder if they could land some arms.  In this department, the St. Louis Cardinals have a loaded starting pitching roster.

I wrote yesterday that a very Cardinals-like move would be to ship off pitchers such as Michael Wacha and/or Jaime Garcia (deal could probably stop there) and/or some arm prospect like a Jeremy Hefner for Ozuna plus cash.  I say this is a very Cardinals-like move because this is the sort of deal that Mozeliak licks his chops for as it would give us a player under control for a few years without writing a big check.

Moving Wacha and/or Garcia would open the starting roster to shake out more completely in spring training and would land the young Ozuna for practically nothing in his first arbitration year.  Ozuna, to his credit, is under team control until 2020 so he could spell some nice years in the St. Louis Cardinals outfield.

Do his stats suggest that he is a good move?  Here at the starter blocks, let me point out that the Cardinals have discussed a desire to have a new lead-off batter.  Ozuna batted all over the Marlins lineup in 2016 but spent the majority of his time in the five spot the most, the fourth spot next, and the two spot next.  He showed success at each of these spots so perhaps he would help regardless of his location in the lineup.

Enough already, right?  Let’s look at his numbers:

Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 22 MIA 70 275 31 73 17 4 3 32 5 1 13 57 .265 .303 .389 .693
2014 23 MIA 153 565 72 152 26 5 23 85 3 1 41 164 .269 .317 .455 .772
2015 24 MIA 123 459 47 119 27 0 10 44 2 3 30 110 .259 .308 .383 .691
2016 ★ 25 MIA 148 557 75 148 23 6 23 76 0 3 43 115 .266 .321 .452 .773
4 Yrs 494 1856 225 492 93 15 59 237 10 8 127 446 .265 .314 .427 .741
162 Game Avg. 162 609 74 161 30 5 19 78 3 3 42 146 .265 .314 .427 .741
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2016.

These stats were good enough in 2016 for Ozuna to be an all-star selection and are decent enough indeed that coming to the St. Louis Cardinals could be a real boost for the youngster.  For comparison, Fowler finished 2016 with a batting average of .276.  Grichuk finished 2016 with a batting average of .240.

I am disappointed in the number of stolen bases.  The St. Louis Cardinals could really benefit from added speed on the bags and Ozuna presents at current as though he was already on the Cardinals team.  For comparison, Fowler stole thirteen bases in 2016 to Ozuna’s zero.

Let’s move on… How about defense?  Fangraphs rank Ozuna’s UZR in center at -3.4 for 2016.  NEGATIVE?!  Grichuk received a UZR of -0.9 in center.  Ozuna received a UZR of 4.6 when he played right field; would Stephen Piscotty relocate?  Could Piscotty move to left?

Piscotty received a UZR of 3.3 in right and a -1 in left (when he appeared there in 2015).  To his credit, Piscotty received a 0.3 UZR when he played center in 2016 in seventy-one innings.  Does this indicate that an outfield shakeup would work?  Grichuk- in case you are wondering- earned a 2.3 UZR in left in 2015 (344.1 innings) and a 1.9 in 2016 (27 innings).

So, let’s jump to the chase.  Ozuna could cost the St. Louis Cardinals in the neighborhood of $1-3M per year for a three-year deal.  Maybe more, maybe less.  Fowler is likely going to cost in the neighborhood of $18-20M per year (easily assumed since he turned down the qualifying offer) for probably a three-year deal.  Maybe more, maybe less.  With the likes of Harrison Bader waiting in the Carinals wings, which of the two names- Fowler or Ozuna- would you prefer?

For my money, I see Mozeliak taking the risk on a 2-3 year deal for Ozuna sending the likes of Wacha/Garcia/Hefner, etc. to the Marlins.  I see Mozeliak making this deal knowing what he has on the team and what he has climbing the ranks.

While others may not be so high on the addition of a Marcell Ozuna, I like the idea since it is low risk and high reward.  I like saving money and draft picks this year (especially when facing the penalties for the Astros hacking) knowing the future of the likes of Bader and next year’s free agent class.

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And, I actually like the idea of a Grichuk in left, Piscotty in center, and Ozuna in right outfield.  I like the power that Ozuna would bring the team and- quite honestly- feel that others might step up in the speed depart (read: Kolten Wong) if allowed to play every day and if allowed to have other threats in the lineup (read: Ozuna).

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