Braves Sign Marcell Ozuna. Yay! Now What?

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On Friday night, we as Braves fans received the new we’d been waiting for all offseason. Near triple crown winner and Mix-it-up artist known as Marcell Ozuna re-signed with the Braves. It’s a 4 year contract, 65MM guaranteed with a $16MM option for 2025. However Ozuna will only get $12MM for the 2021 season. In the corresonding roster move, Kyle Garlick, who I “picked to click” in my last piece, was DFA’d. If you’ve started listening to me for your Braves predictions, you’ve made an unwise decision.

It was quite pleasant watching Ozuna and Anthopoulos chatting with one another via a Zoom call. Ozuna questioned why it took so long to sign him and why didn’t Alex just get it done right after the season. As good GMs do, Alex deflected and said all that matters is to get it done before spring training. Anthopoulos compared Ozuna’s clubhouse presence to the great Martin Prado, which is high praise considering Chipper Jones himself called Prado the best teammate he ever had. Watching the 2020 Braves, I can believe it. In 2019, Josh Donaldson brought some much needed swagger and, shall I say spirit, to the clubhouse. Ozuna’s presence was equally effective, but the magic potion was exuberance and the players, both Latin and American born loved him for it. It was a beautiful clubhouse and was the most fun I personally ever had watching a team.

With Ozuna signed, the roster is taking shape. At this point of the offseason, as the Hobbits would say, we’re “filling in the corners”of the roster. Yes, there are still whispers of the Braves checking in on a top name from the guy that broke the Ozuna trade, but for the sake of this exercise, we’ll continue on the belief that the regulars around are pretty much set with:

It’s at least worth nothing that Anthopoulos said something about looking for an outfielder just in case Acuña has to play CF for a while. There are a few ways to read that piece of information:

  1. This means service time manipulation for Pache (May 3rd would be the day he could be brought up and gain an extra year of control).
  2. Pache could be part of a trade package.
  3. It’s just worst case scenario speech from AA if Pache shows poorly in spring.

I’m hoping it’s 3. I have to believe it’s 3.

Braves Budget and Needs

I’ve openly questioned how much access David O’Brien has to the team and/or Anthopoulos, so I’m not sure why I’m using his numbers, but he guesses the Braves have $10-12 million to work with after the Ozuna signing. The needs seem to be a backup catcher, backup infielder, backup outfielder, and a right-handed relief pitcher. Surely the Braves will fill some of these holes internally, with catcher seeming to be the most likely, but we’ll at least discuss each position and how the Braves could spend on filling out the roster.

Backup Catcher

Robinson Chirinos (36)- An offensive first catcher, Chirinos had an awful 2020 season, but will be cheap. Could be a good clubhouse fit for cheap.
Tyler Flowers (35)- The most obvious candidate on the list and most likely if he wants to continue playing.
Matt Wieters (35)- The choices are slim when Wieters makes this list, but he’s a body but I’m not sure his knees can handle squatting anymore.

Breakdown: Familiarity…if we’re going solely from this list, Flowers is the obvious choice. However, I feel like this is the most likely position the Braves fill internally and we finally get to see William Contreras catch 40-50 games/ season.

Backup Infielder

I’m going to make 1 assumption and that is the Braves will want someone that can play multiple positions, but not necessarily just shortstop. With a 26-man roster, the Braves will have a 5 man bench and that bench will likely consist of a true backup SS (Ehire Adrianza?) and maybe a bat first utility type. That shopping list:

  • Marwin Gonzalez– Gonzalez has gone downhill and doesn’t come with the positional flexibility he once had. Still, he’s a decent bat and could provide some depth from the left side of the plate.
  • Jed Lowrie– Wouldn’t it be awesome to get Lowrie for next to nothing after the Mets got nothing from him? Yeah…I’d like that.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera– He’s aged well as a hitter, but is a bit of a statue in the field. Still, he’s a switch hitter with good numbers from both sides of the plate. I also think he’d be a great fit in the clubhouse.
  • Brad Miller– A personal favorite of mine that deserves more recognition. He can still fake SS, but can also play nearly anywere.
  • Travis Shaw– resurged a bit in 2020 and exit velo numbers look good. Riley platoon?
  • Brock Holt– Scrappy when he was with the BoSox, but remove the S and it’s more accurate in 2020 with the Brewers. Only 33 and can still play multiple positions.

Breakdown: I think there are a lot of attractive options here, but my personal preference is Miller or Cabrera.

Free Agent Backup Outfielders

For now, I’m going to assume that Ender Inciarte is Marcell Ozuna’s caddy for 2021 and if the Braves are looking for a backup OFer, it’s more for the bat, not for the glove. I’m throwing glove first OFers out of this scenario and also potential starters, as Braves won’t be buying one of those.

Breakdown: Like the infielder list, these are decent bench bats. Joyce or Duvall would likely be my first pick, but I’m guessing Duvall still wants a regular gig and with last year’s numbers, he should get it. Jay Bruce might be entering the PH’ing phase of his career and the Braves could do worse than Bruce pulling a Hinske and socking dingers off the bench. Still…I’ll go with Joyce.

Free Agent Right Handed Relief Pitchers

I’m going to factor out the high end guys and the low end and focus on the $3-4MM relievers left on the market. Too many to do writeups, so I’ll just list.

Right-Handed Relievers

Brad Boxberger (33)
Steve Cishek (35)
Tyler Clippard (36)
Shane Greene (32)
Tommy Hunter (34)
Jeremy Jeffress (33)
Keone Kela (28)
Brandon Kintzler (36)
Collin McHugh (34)
Mark Melancon (36)
Yusmeiro Petit (36)
David Phelps (34)
AJ Ramos (34)
David Robertson (36)
Sergio Romo (38)
Pedro Strop (36)
Ryan Tepera (33)
Nick Tropeano (30)

Breakdown: There could be some MILB deals in here the Braves could pull off, but I think familiarity will play a role here. Mark Melancon on a 1 year $4MM deal makes a lot of sense, but I’d love for the Braves to give David Robertson, who’s coming off of elbow surgery, a deal in that vicinity to prove himself worthy of one last multi-year contract. He’s from Birmingham so I’d guess there’d be mutual interest.

Thoughts? Who’s your picks of the litter?

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

31 thoughts on “Braves Sign Marcell Ozuna. Yay! Now What?”

  1. Thank you, Ryan. I have hopes there is a third baseman or leftfield surprise in the offing but am pleased with AA’s offseason. Let us please have baseball, the sooner the better.

  2. I’d add Villar to my INF list. Redick is an OF I’d like to see. Think backup C is Contreras unless he looks terrible in ST and they bring Flow in late-don’t think Flow goes anywhere else so he’d be there even after start.

  3. @trev Villar signed with the Reds.

    In terms of offense I like Joyce as a bench bat but other than that I’m indifferent unless AA goes big again and gets Justin Turner, which I’d be all the way in on.

    For the pen Robertson or McHugh with Melancon as the back up. I guess I wouldn’t hate Jeffress either. Whoever they get needs to throw with his right arm and get K’s in October.

  4. I agree that the Pache thought must be 3. I don’t see him as part of a trade at this date after he showed in the playoffs last year. Especially if the trade we’d all like to see happens, we don’t need the bat. Just the glove in CF.

    As to the others –

    Backup Catcher – Agreed, likely going to Contreras.

    Backup Infielder – Even if we get the trade we want, this will remain a need and some good names listed. Plenty of interesting choices.

    Backup Outfielder – As things stand now, Duvall and Joyce both have familiarity with the club and both are certainly serviceable (and I still rate Duvall’s glove higher than the metrics do based on the eye test, for what it is worth.) That said, I’m not convinced we won’t see the DH thing play out before the season starts, especially as the season start is still in debate. The MLBPA has not budged…yet. I don’t know how it will go in the end, but if they make the DH deal, then we really need a full time LF. That screams Duvall again. Streaky, but proven.

    RH relief pitcher – I still say resign Melancon or Greene (can we afford both?) My fear is that if we resign Melancon, he is instantly the closer and while I liked most of what I saw, it still seemed a little smoke and mirrors at times. I’d prefer to push Smith or Matzek to that role (especially Matzek.)

    I like what AA has been able to construct with the roster especially with uncertainty remaining, most especially in the NL. I would prefer if things were more equitable knowing the landscape under which the NL would play for 2021. The DH thing really alters the makeup of the roster and lineup. Make it clear now so all clubs are playing under the same set of understood rules (whatever they are.)

  5. Glad to hear that AA compared Ozuna’s clubhouse presence to Prado’s, but how does AA know about Prado’s? They never overlapped, as far as I can tell. Or is Martin’s wonderfulness just that universally known?

    As a fan, if two players are similar, I’d rather see the team bring back one who has been here before. Continuity is a good thing, and it’s more fun seeing a team of players for whom you’ve rooted for a while succeed. I wouldn’t enjoy rooting for Kentucky basketball, where there’s a different crop of (admittedly very good) players every year. This is more important for the stars, of course, and the post-2015 Braves have done a good job of keeping most of their stars. Unless there are significantly better options, I’d be fine with bringing back Duvall, Flowers if he’s not broken, and I guess Melancon because of the fun he had catching Albies’s HRs in the NLCS. I might even be (the only person on this board who would be) ok with bringing back Markakis as a PH/backup, if Snitker could be prevented from giving him more than 10 starts.

  6. It’s possible that they sign sign Duvall and make him the regular RF and move Acuña to CF, so Pache can get some more PAs at Gwinnett without the team being pressured to bring him up before he is ready.

    This is my preferred option.

  7. CF Acuña
    2b Albies
    1b Freeman
    LF Ozuna
    C D’Arnaud
    SS Swanson
    RF Duvall
    3b Riley

    Bench

    UT Camargo
    OF Inciarte
    C AJax
    AA usually picks up a veteran or 2 at the end of Spring. I think he will do this to fill the last 2 spots on the bench.

    Starting pitching
    LHP Fried
    RHP Morton
    LHP Smyley
    RHP Anderson
    RHP Wright/Wilson
    (Soroka starts on the IL until May or June. No reason to rush him back, and it helps keep him fresh for October.)

    Left handed relief
    Smith
    Minter
    Newcomb
    Dayton

    Right handed relief
    Martin
    Edwards Jr.
    Araño
    Tomlin (long relief)

  8. @Braves14 – That’s an old school lineup. As of last year, Freddie was in the 2 hole. Right now it looks like this (I think):

    RF Acuña
    1b Freeman
    LF Ozuna
    C D’Arnaud
    2b Albies
    SS Swanson
    3b Riley
    CF Pache
    Pitcher

    Good, not great. At this date, we don’t have Duvall or Wishcast (TM) Ramirez. But think about that lineup –

    RF Acuña
    1b Freeman
    3b Ramirez
    LF Ozuna
    2b Albies
    SS Swanson
    C D’Arnaud
    CF Pache
    Pitcher

    Now add the DH –

    RF Acuña
    1b Freeman
    3b Ramirez
    DH Ozuna
    2b Albies
    SS Swanson
    C D’Arnaud
    LF Duvall (assuming he signs)
    CF Pache

    So many moving parts. It would be nice to know how to construct.

  9. Great move to finally sign Ozuna i think what Ozuna did for this team why wait i guess it was a negotiation scheme man Ozuna took less money now the Braves management can add more pieces .I look forward to watching Ozuna and Freddie playing in the stadium sellout crowd .Everyone wearing the “”STIR IT UP” tshirts.

  10. How confident are we the team breaks camp with Inciarte and Carmago?
    I don’t see either playing a role on a championship team. Maybe try them out in April/May and either things improve or you move on? Johan has been pretty darn bad for 2 years.

  11. I don’t see any way of getting rid of Inciarte. I think Camargo’s down to his last chance and if he doesn’t light the world on fire in Spring Training he’ll get lost in the shuffle.

  12. ( Oppo tonk? After tonight try out Gronk.)

    Hey Rob, how are you feeling at this exact moment in time? A week or so back you had some of us worried you were hurting from watching the Bucs. Really? That bad? Not even on TV?

    A day or so later your guys slaughtered Rogers and Green Bay. Felt better I bet, right? Embarrassed?

    What about tonight then? Mahomes and company totally outclassed. Did you go to the game? Watch on TV?

    So please relax and enjoy. You live and work in the home of the current Superbowl Champions.
    Put a grand on them next year, they are now the perfect mix. Cheers.

  13. Count me in on Melancon and Duvall. Just makes too much sense. I would have thought that AJax could be the back-up and let Contreras finish a last year in the Minors.

  14. The more I think about it, the more I think – if there are only two catchers on the roster – Alex Jackson might make the most sense. If there’s no DH and TDA hits well, that second catcher is going to get his couple starts every couple weeks and largely anchor an end of the bench other than that. And if TDA doesn’t hit well, none of the available options are really that awesome, and it might be time to call up Contreras.
    As for bullpen, I’m down to four names – Melancon, Greene, Kela and Rosenthal.
    I’m not picky about the backup infielder, but I do like Reddick or Duvall for the OF.

  15. blazon, feeling good, thanks. Happy for the locals. Tom Brady, the weapons, and the Bucs’ defense are a perfect match. Tampa Bay has had a hell of a year with the Bolts, Rays, and Bucs. It’s a golden era right now. Would love to see a Rays World Series at the Trop this year against the Braves.

    I guess DOB would at least have an idea of where the budget is. If not him, then who? If Peanut ain’t talking, then you pretty much just have your best guess from a guy like DOB to go off.

    I would think that there’s at least one more reliever coming. The rotation is set, the lineup is set (barring Jose Ramirez craziness), you could add a OF bench bat for less than a couple million to complete the bench, so I would think the bullpen remains. I’m much more confident about the LH side of the bullpen vs. the RH, so Greene, Hunter, Boxberger, Melancon, bring one or two on. I’m still not opposed to trying out Tucker Davidson or Kyle Muller or De La Cruz in relief. I think we’ll know more about what last year looked like for those guys pretty quickly in Spring Training.

    If we shore up the pen, I think the path to the World Series runs through the Mets and the Dodgers only. Thanks for the write-up, Ryno.

  16. Speaking of the Mets, I think it’s fair to say with a new (seemingly competent) GM, new ownership that seems to be a bit more in tune with what it takes to win in baseball, and a new manager, I have a new sense of fear. It’s hard to argue that they’ve not built a really good team, and I’m probably the most afraid of them out of the East.

  17. @18 – I would be, but they remain the LOLMets. Truthfully, the NL East looks pretty strong. Any one of the 5 teams have the talent. Can’t wait to see it play out on the field. I’m totally ready for 2021 baseball.

  18. He comes across as really emotionally needy and in need of constant validation. I actually think it’s nice that he’s trying to reach out to the Mets fans and make good on something that clearly sucked, especially since he so often uses his public platforms to punch down and shame individual fans.

    His entire public persona would benefit in every way by just being lessened.

  19. I have been combing reserve outfielders and think I may have found one with potential big upside. Nomar Mazar played 42 games for the White Sox in 2020 & did not have a very fruitful year. His rookie year in 2016 thru 2019 were nice & he’ll be 26 in April. Can’t imagine him being expensive. Very good out fielder with good power numbers.

  20. Mazara was a major, massive disappointment in Texas where he came up with an intriguing blend of skills and flaws. The problem is he basically never grew from the player he was as a 20-21 year old. He could possibly be a change of scenery guy… or he might just be a guy who has a long career in Japan.

  21. Keeping y’all in the loop. Pre-orders through Friday then it’s a free for all.

  22. Yeah, pretty crazy set of things for 2021. The 7-inning doubleheader remains, pinch runner in extra innings remains. I don’t think this is real healthy for the sport, but I get that we’re still in a pandemic. Wonder if these rules last all year.

  23. And of course, that does clear things up for Atlanta that Ozuna will have to play LF. That definitively keeps Waters in AAA as if there was any doubt. Riley will undoubtedly not get any innings in LF, and a good defensive centerfielder is going to be more important than ever.

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