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Trade Target: Marcell Ozuna

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Does the outfielder make sense for the Cardinals?

MLB: Miami Marlins at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Tommy Pham’s emergence as a star in the outfield, here is the case for him to be NL MVP, the Cardinals are looking to the outfield as positions that need upgrading. At the top of the list is Giancarlo Stanton of Miami. Then, perhaps the top free agent, J.D. Martinez. Another Marlin follows in third: Christian Yelich. I wrote about how likely it is that the Cardinals acquire Yelich here.

Many believe Stanton is too expensive. J.D. Martinez is the top free agent entering the offseason, but when is the last time the Cardinals bought the top free agent? The cost for Yelich, although an extremely valuable player, is high. Not quite as high as Stanton’s, but high enough to call into doubt whether the front office will make the move. Marcell Ozuna might be a different story.

Ozuna made his debut in 2013, but is under contract though the 2019 season. He has not had the consistent success of Stanton or Yelich over the course of his career. However, he slightly outperformed Yelich this year. Ozuna’s line is impressive: .312/.376/.548. If his value is still in question, he posted a wRC+ of 142 this year, just below Pham for third best outfielder in both the National and American Leagues.

Most importantly, he would fill the largest need of the Cardinals: an impact bat. Although his power was largely overshadowed by Stanton’s ridiculous year, he still hit 37 homers and drove in 124. There is not a player on the Cardinals who had even 83 RBIs this year.

Ozuna might be the bat the Cardinals are looking for, but is he a fit?

In 2018 and 2019, he will be in his second and third years of arbitration, respectively. This year, he made $3.5 million. Next year, he is projected to make $10.9 million. For the value Ozuna provides, that is not an absurd number. So realistically, his relatively cheap salary combined with the fact that he is under team control for two more years will drive up his price.

The Marlins can, should, and likely will ask for a substantial return in prospects. Who those prospects might be is an open ended question. As they rebuild, the Marlins will be in search of a young pitcher, which the Cardinals have. Would the Cardinals give up Weaver or Reyes for Ozuna? Doubtful. They probably also want an outfield prospect or two. This side of the deal would be much easier to stomach. In reality though, an Ozone deal would probably be some combination of a future front of the rotation pitcher and a couple outfield prospects who project as starters.

It is important that acquisitions not be considered in a vacuum. It takes talent to acquire talent, especially the impact bat that Ozuna brings to the lineup. Other than the trade partner match the Marlins and Cardinals seem to make when considering wants and needs, what makes this trade plausible is the fact that the Marlins are reportedly looking to shed salary, dropping their payroll to $90 million.

Stanton is owed $25 million next year, making him both a player Miami would consider trading and a player other teams would think twice about acquiring his contract. Yelich is only owed $7 million next year and his salary does not rise above $10 million until the 2020 season, making him a player the Marlins can hold on to.

Ozuna, on the other hand, could be a player the Marlins look to trade. The only barrier will be whether or not the Cardinals are prepared to part with a couple of their prized prospects to make a deal.