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Ozuna hopes to stay put: 'I would love it'

@adamdberry
October 16, 2019

WASHINGTON -- As he prepared to leave the visitors' clubhouse at Nationals Park late Tuesday night, Marcell Ozuna said he hopes that Game 4 of the National League Championship Series was not the end of his time with the Cardinals.

WASHINGTON -- As he prepared to leave the visitors' clubhouse at Nationals Park late Tuesday night, Marcell Ozuna said he hopes that Game 4 of the National League Championship Series was not the end of his time with the Cardinals.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 WSH 2, STL 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 12 WSH 3, STL 1 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 14 WSH 8, STL 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 15 WSH 7, STL 4 Watch

Ozuna is one of four Cardinals players set to enter free agency five days after the World Series ends. Over the next few weeks, the Cards’ front office must evaluate their interest in retaining veteran starter Adam Wainwright, backup catcher Matt Wieters, right-hander Michael Wacha and Ozuna, the starting left fielder.

The Cardinals have not yet publicly discussed the possibility of a return for Ozuna, but he certainly sounded open to the idea after St. Louis’ season ended with an NLCS sweep.

“Just say thanks to the organization, the opportunity they gave me,” Ozuna said. “Two years, put me in the situation to play in the postseason. I’ve never been part of that.

“Right now, I would feel amazing if they brought me back, I would love it. I played for St. Louis for two years, and it was a good experience. The fans, I love the fans. I love everyone in St. Louis. It’s up to them.”

The first step for the Cardinals might be extending Ozuna a qualifying offer for one year and $17.8 million. If he accepted such an offer, he’d be back for another season. If he declined, he could negotiate a new deal with the Cardinals or seek a new team that would be willing to give up a Draft pick to sign him.

St. Louis has internal outfield options to replace Ozuna, if necessary, and moving on from him could free up outfield space and potentially clear the way for Dylan Carlson, their No. 1 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings.

“It’s out of my hands,” Ozuna said.

In his second season with St. Louis, the 28-year-old Ozuna hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 homers, 89 RBIs and 12 steals in 130 games. His performance in the NL Division Series helped push the Cardinals past the Braves, but he went 3-for-16 with eight strikeouts as the Cards were pushed aside by the Nationals’ dominant rotation in the NLCS.

“I describe my year as not bad, not good. Just average. I grinded,” Ozuna said. “After I got hurt, had a lot of things going in my head. I said, ‘Let’s get recovered and come back and do the best for my team.’ That’s all I can do.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.