Free agency is upon us! This will be a Hot Stove season unlike any other, which makes sense, following a season unlike any other. You can’t expect things to start getting normal now.
For the next few weeks, we’ll be taking regular looks at the top free agents, their top suitors … and ranking ‘em. There are plenty of teams that want the top-tier options, the platinum plan, the Glengarry leads. But who’s most likely to sign them? That is the goal of the Free Agency Power Rankings: to give you our best guess.
Previously, we looked at the suitors for Trevor Bauer and then for J.T. Realmuto. Today, we look at Marcell Ozuna. It is remarkable how close Ozuna came to winning the Triple Crown last year; just 13 batting average percentage points behind Juan Soto. (That’s just three more hits.) Ozuna's one-year make-good deal with the Braves couldn’t possibly have gone better, particularly because Atlanta was able to play him at designated hitter, something they had no idea they’d be able to do when they signed him. We still don’t know whether the National League will have the DH again next year, but it’s a big deal for Ozuna. Keeping the DH in the Senior Circuit immediately doubles the number of his suitors. For the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend we already know that there will be a DH in the NL. It’s certainly more fun that way.
Here are the Marcell Ozuna Power Rankings.
In 2020, Ozuna became the player he looked like he was his final year in Miami and the one the Cardinals never really saw in his two years in St. Louis. It was his career year, one that happened mostly because Ozuna was at last fully healthy. But what team he did it with -- a team that just missed reaching the World Series -- will surely not be ignored by him and his agents. The Braves are a top-shelf contender, he’d be surrounded by talent and he’s obviously comfortable in Atlanta. Again, you’d like to make sure the DH is still an available option, but the Braves are the clear leader.
2. Red Sox
Sure, the Red Sox need pitching first and foremost, but they’ve signified that they’re eager to spend, and adding Ozuna to an already-potent lineup sure would give their pitching staff plenty of wiggle room. The Red Sox already have a DH in J.D. Martinez, but Ozuna could probably handle left field at Fenway Park, and, depending on how long Ozuna signed, he could take over for Martinez at some point anyway. Also, it sure seems like Red Sox fans would love him. Imagine what his fly balls launched deep over the Green Monster would look like.
3. White Sox
Ozuna would theoretically get the South Siders what they were hoping to get out of Edwin Encarnación last year, and the fun-loving Ozuna would fit in this lineup perfectly. But would he fit alongside new manager Tony La Russa? Ozuna’s most frustrating seasons happened in St. Louis, where TLR managed until 2011, and the laid-back Ozuna is exactly the sort of player who has traditionally clashed with La Russa.
The Mets have to be included on any list of suitors for any player at this point, and while Ozuna isn’t as logical a fit for New York as Bauer or Realmuto, he would help balance out a heavily left-handed lineup. (Realmuto would also do this, for what it’s worth.) Ozuna would be a hit in Queens, too, and he’d be a way to take a bite out of the defending NL East champion Braves.
The Rangers were the other primary suitor for Ozuna last offseason, but it’s a very different situation for both them and Ozuna this year. The Rangers were still considering themselves contenders heading into 2020, and trying to open a new ballpark. Now they look further away from contention than ever. Meanwhile, Ozuna has played in the last two NL Championship Series and makes considerably more sense on a contender.
If Nelson Cruz leaves, Ozuna is a more than adequate replacement, one who’s a decade younger. This team would hit so many homers.
The rotation seems the logical target for the Padres, particularly now that we know Mike Clevinger will be out for 2021, but if the NL has a DH, Ozuna sure would elevate this lineup to an even higher place. And “an even higher place” might be what’s required to try to catch up with those Dodgers, who aren’t going anywhere.
Astros: They’re certainly short on outfielders, but with Yordan Alvarez, they already have a guy who probably needs to stick at DH.
Cardinals: St. Louis certainly needs offense, but after two disappointing years with Ozuna, it’s difficult to imagine the Cardinals getting back on this train.
Nationals: This would probably require the NL having the DH, but Ozuna would sure look great hitting behind Trea Turner and Soto.