Coming off a down 2019 (career-worst .241 average), Marcell Ozuna had to settle for a one-year prove-it deal on the open market last winter. And boy did he prove it, leading the National League in both home runs (18) and RBI (56) in his first, and perhaps only, season as an Atlanta Brave.
The 30-year-old slugger has yet to cash in this offseason, though neither have fellow free agents George Springer, DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Bauer. That’s for a variety of reasons—teams are bleeding cash from the COVID pandemic and the threat of a work stoppage (MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expires after this year) in 2022 has only added to the uncertainty. The upcoming 2021 campaign is plagued with its own set of unresolved issues with the league still sorting out safety protocols, spring training report dates, fan attendance, season length, playoff format and whether or not the National League will move to adopt a permanent DH.
The latter discussion is of particular interest to Ozuna, a defensive liability (though he did garner a Gold Glove Award as recently as 2017) who spent much of last year as the Braves’ designated hitter (39 of 60 regular-season games). The National League experimented with the DH during last year’s corona-abbreviated 2020, though MLB never specified whether the move was permanent or merely a temporary measure.
If the NL reverts to its pre-2020 form, Ozuna would arguably be a better fit in the American League, where his fielding limitations would be offset by the presence of a designated hitter. Regardless, it doesn’t sound like teams are losing much sleep over Ozuna’s glove. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the two-time All-Star is being pursued by teams in both leagues with some clubs comfortable employing Ozuna as an everyday outfielder.
Morosi didn’t mention any of Ozuna’s suitors by name, though the Blue Jays, Mets, Giants and the Braves are known to have varying degrees of interest in the eight-year veteran. If possible—long-term deals have proven hard to come by in this climate—the well-traveled Ozuna will no doubt be looking to settle down after a hectic four-year stretch spent shuttling between Miami, Atlanta and St. Louis.